Letter | Published:

Antigenic heterogeneity of metacyclic forms of Trypanosoma brucei


AFRICAN trypanosomiasis is a relapsing disease chiefly affecting man and his domestic stock. The infected mammal mounts a protective, trypanolytic immune response to the trypanosome's surface antigen, but a few parasites have already undergone antigenic variation by that time1. Parasitaemic remissions and recrudescences occur as a seemingly inexhaustible series of surface variable antigen types (VATs) are expressed randomly by the flagellate2,3. Reversion of the trypanosome population to a ‘basic’ antigen type at the end of its cyclical development in ithe tsetse fly's salivary glands has been suggested4–6. Prospects of vaccination, and of early serodiagnosis of trypanosomiasis, would be greatly improved by use of such a basic VAT. Specific immunofluorescence and immune lysis tests now make possible the identification of the VAT of individual trypanosomes1. We have applied these techniques to metacyclic trypanosomes. Our results show that VAT heterogeneity is present in the metacyclic population.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1

    Van Meirvenne, N., Janssens, P. G. & Magnus, E. Ann. Soc. belge Méd. trop. 55, 1–23 (1975).

  2. 2

    Vickerman, K. in Parasites in the Immunised Host: Mechanisms of Survival (Ciba Fdn Symposium, 25, new ser.) 53–70 (1974).

  3. 3

    Gray, A. R. & Luckins, A. G. in Biology of the Kinetoplastida 1, (eds Lumsden, W. H. R. & Evans, D. A.) 493–542 (Academic, New York, 1976).

  4. 4

    Gray, A. R. J. gen. Microbiol. 41, 195–214 (1965).

  5. 5

    Gray, A. R. Trans. R. Soc. trop. Med. Hyg. 69, 131–138 (1975).

  6. 6

    Jenni, L. Acta trop. 34, 35–41 (1977).

  7. 7

    Van Meirvenne, N., Janssens, P. G., Magnus, E., Lumsden, W. H. R. & Herbert, W. J. Ann. Soc. belge Méd. trop. 55, 25–30 (1975).

  8. 8

    Le Ray, D. Ann. Soc. belge Méd. trop. 55, 129–311 (1975).

  9. 9

    Le Ray, D., Barry, J. D., Easton, C. & Vickerman, K. Ann. Soc. belge Méd. trop. 57, 369–381 (1977).

  10. 10

    Vickerman, K. J. Cell Sci. 5, 163–194 (1969).

  11. 11

    Steiger, R. F. Acta trop. 30, 64–168 (1973).

Download references

Author information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.