Trichobilharzia regenti: host immune response in the pathogenesis of neuroinfection in mice.
ABSTRACT Besides their natural bird hosts, Trichobilharzia regenti cercariae are able to penetrate skin of mammals, including humans. Experimental infections of mice showed that schistosomula of this species are able to avoid the immune response in skin of their non-specific mammalian host and escape the skin to migrate to the CNS. Schistosomula do not mature in mammals, but can survive in nervous tissue for several days post infection. Neuroinfections of specific bird hosts as well as accidental mammalian hosts can lead to neuromotor effects, for example, leg paralysis and thus this parasite serves as a model of parasite invasion of the CNS. Here, we show by histological and immunohistochemical investigation of CNS invasion of immunocompetent (BALB/c) and immunodeficient (SCID) mice by T. regenti schistosomula that the presence of parasites in the nervous tissue initiated an influx of immune cells, activation of microglia, astrocytes and development of inflammatory lesions. Schistosomula elimination in the tissue depended on the host immune status. In the absence of CD3+ T-cells in immunodeficient SCID mice, parasite destruction was slower than that in immunocompetent BALB/c mice. Axon injury and subsequent secondary demyelination in the CNS were associated with mechanical damage due to migration of schistosomula through the nervous tissue, and not by host immune processes. Immunoreactivity of the parasite intestinal content for specific antigens of oligodendrocytes/myelin and neurofilaments showed for the first time that schistosomula ingest the nervous tissue components during their migration.