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Br Vet J. 1995 Mar-Apr;151(2):119-40.

The immunogenetics of resistance to Trichostrongylus colubriformis and Haemonchus contortus parasites in sheep.

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  • 1Department of Animal Production, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Australia.


Three possible immunogenetic markers for resistance to intestinal parasites in sheep have been studied. Allotypes of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) of the sheep have been investigated as markers, using serological typing or gene probes, for associations between allotypes and resistance to parasites in selected high responder and low responder lines of sheep. Only the serologically-determined class I ovine leucocyte antigen (OLA) types SY 1a and SY 1b have been found to be consistently associated with increased resistance to Trichostrongylus colubriformis, but this association has not extended to the immunologically distinct Haemonchus contortus parasite. Gene probes of the sheep DRB, DQB and DQA MHC class II loci have detected animals with increased susceptibility to T. colubriformis. Eosinophilia was investigated as a marker and found to be associated with increased resistance to parasites in lines of Australian Merinos and New Zealand Romneys selected for resistance on the basis of low faecal egg count. Blood eosinophilia was distinct from eosinophil infiltration of the gut which was poorly associated with resistance. The mechanism of parasite resistance appeared to involve the release of vasoactive amines and leukotrienes into intestinal mucus, since the selected high responder sheep to T. colubriformis and H. contortus had significantly increased amounts of these agents in their gut mucus, compared with selected low responder or random-bred sheep. Antibodies to T. colubriformis and H. contortus have also been used as markers to select high responder sire groups of lambs in contact with the parasites, for the first time, at weaning. This assay had the advantage of detecting distinct antigens for the two parasites, which would allow resistance to the species of parasite to be selected in the lambs. Vaccines have been developed against H. contortus using 'novel' gut antigens from the parasite, but variable responsiveness of the host sheep seemed to result in varying degrees of protection which were stimulated by these vaccines.

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