The nasal avian schistosome Trichobilharzia regenti spends part of its intravertebrate period of life within the central nervous system. Migration of the parasites can be accompanied by neuromotor disorders or paralysis in natural definitive hosts (ducks) and even in laboratory mammals. Cercariae are also able to penetrate human skin and induce cercarial dermatitis. While the cellular and antibody responses against cercariae and migrating schistosomula have been investigated in mice, little is known about immune reactions in birds. This study first describes the dynamics of antibody response in infected ducks and identifies frequently recognized antigens that may serve as diagnostic markers of infection by T. regenti.
Groups of 35 domestic ducks and 10 mallards were exposed to different doses of T. regenti cercariae. Sera were collected at predefined time intervals and tested by ELISA for the presence of specific anti-cercarial IgY and IgM. Antigens recognized by the antibodies were identified on Western blots of cercariae and schistosomula. The applicability in immunodiagnostics was statistically evaluated by expression of specificity and sensitivity values for individual antigens.
In ELISA, the levels of anti-cercarial IgM peaked on day 15 pi. Increased production of IgY associated with the later phases of infection was observed in most individuals around 20 dpi and culminated 30 dpi. The time course of antibody response did not differ among experimental groups, variations were only observed in the levels of specific IgY which depended rather on the age of ducks at the time of infection than on the infectious dose. On Western blots, 40 cercarial and 7 schistosomular antigens were recognized by IgY from infected ducks. Among them, 4 cercarial antigens of 50, 47, 32 and 19 kDa provided the most sensitive and specific reactions.
Antigens of cercariae and schistosomula elicited distinct antibody response in ducks, which correlated positively with the age of animals at the time of infection. Several antigens originating in cercariae and fewer in schistosomula were recognized by IgY with diverse sensitivity and specificity; only a few seemed to be common to both stages. Four of them were considered as the most promising candidates for immunodiagnostics.