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Immunological properties of the surface of parasitic nematodes

An Erratum to this article was published on 01 March 1979


THE surface of parasites seems to be especially important in the intricate relationship which is known to exist between these organisms and their hosts. This is particularly clear in the case of African trypanosomes, which are able to vary the antigenic glycoproteins of their surface sequentially during infection1. It is also known that the surface of schistosomes changes during infection in parallel with alterations in the susceptibility of this trematode to the action of immunity2. By comparison with these and other parasites, little is known of the properties of the surface of nematodes nor of its role in the host-parasite interaction. Both free-living and parasitic nematodes are bounded by a non-cellular cuticular layer which is probably living because it may contain, for example, enzymes and haemoglobin3. The cuticle, which is shed and replaced as the nematodes pass through the various moults in their life cycle, consists of fibrous collagen-like proteins, thought unlikely by some authors to be highly immunogenic in the host4. However, we now report that the serum of animals infected with the nematodes Trichinella spiralis and Nippostrongylus brasiliensis contain antibodies to nematode cuticle, each specific to the surface of a particular stage in the life cycle of the parasites and capable of mediating attack by inflammatory cells against the nematode surface.

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MACKENZIE, C., PRESTON, P. & OGILVIE, B. Immunological properties of the surface of parasitic nematodes. Nature 276, 826–828 (1978).

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