The immune response to filarial infection has been shown to be of both the Th1 and Th2 types. Studies aimed at developing immunization strategies against Dirofilaria immitis infection in dogs have shown that protection against larval challenge is of the Th2 type and that several proteins are recognized by immunized or infected animals. The bacterial endosymbiont Wolbachia, harbored by many filarial species including D. immitis, has recently been shown to interact with the host immune system. Specific antibodies to the Wolbachia recombinant surface protein (WSPr) have been observed in cats infected with D. immitis. In this work the authors have determined cytokine production and antibody response in BALB/c mice inoculated with soluble antigens from third stage larvae or from adult worms of D. immitis. Inoculated mice first produced IFN-γ followed by a peak in IL-4. Specific antibodies to the Wolbachia protein WSPr were exclusively IgG2a, while antibodies against peptides derived from antigens of D. immitis were in the IgG1 and IgE subclasses. The cytokine response is thus similar to that reported for other filarial infection, where Th1 response shifts towards Th2. Antibody response indicates that Wolbachia may induce preferentially a Th1 response during filarial infection, while nematode antigens may be involved in Th2 response. There is thus an overall agreement with current opinions on the role of bacterial versus nematode molecules in driving the response towards the different directions.
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