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Adv Parasitol. 1999;44:41-97.

Immunity and vaccine development in the bovine theilerioses.

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Department of Biology, University of York, UK.


There are three economically important bovine Theileria species: Theileria annulata, which causes tropical theileriosis and occurs across north Africa and most of central Asia; Theileria parva, which causes East Coast fever and is found in East and Central Africa; and Theileria sergenti, which is predominantly a problem in Japan and Korea. Theileria annulata preferentially infects macrophages in vivo. It is controlled largely by means of live, attenuated vaccines, which are produced by prolonged tissue culture of the schizont-infected cells. The immunity induced in animals, which have either recovered from an infection or have been vaccinated (with an attenuated vaccine), is broad, solid and cell mediated. It is considered that the main effector cells are cytostatic macrophages that produce nitric oxide. Subsidiary roles for bovine leucocyte antigen (BoLA)-restricted, transiently appearing, cytotoxic T cells, and possibly also natural killer (NK) cells, have been identified. Cytokines such as tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) may have important roles, particularly in the induction of pathology. Matrix metalloproteinases have been implicated in the metastatic behaviour of schizont-infected cells. The nature of the protective schizont target antigens remains unknown. Attempts to develop a subunit vaccine have focused upon a sporozoite antigen (SPAG-1) and a merozoite antigen (Tams1). Both SPAG-1 and Tams1 have given partial protection using different delivery systems and adjuvants, but further vaccine development will probably require identification of a range of other antigens, especially from the schizont stage. Theileria parva has a tropism for T cells. Vaccination is currently by the 'infection and treatment' method, which involves challenging with a controlled dose of sporozoite stabilate and the simultaneous administration of long-acting tetracyclines. The immunity thus induced is mediated by BoLA-restricted cytotoxic T cells, which recognize polymorphic schizont antigens. These antigens have not been characterized at the molecular level. However, the polymorphic nature of the target antigens underlies the fact that the immunity is very strain specific--a situation that distinguishes T. parva from T. annulata. Interestingly, it is not possible to produce an attenuated vaccine to T. parva, as T. parva requires up to two orders of magnitude more schizonts in order to achieve transfer to the new host. A suggested reason for this is that the macrophage targets of T. annulata are phagocytes and thus the schizont has a natural, efficient route of entry whilst the preferred host of T. parva is the non-phagocytic T cell. Analysis of the cytotoxic T-cell response has revealed evidence of BoLA haplotype dominance plus competition between parasite epitopes. Subunit vaccination using a recombinant sporozoite antigen (p67) has proved very promising, with levels of protection of the order of 70% being achieved. A proportion of the protected calves exhibits complete sterile immunity. Interestingly, the basis for this immunity is not clear, since there is no correlation between the titre of antibodies that inhibit sporozoite penetration of lymphocytes and protection. Similarly, there is no significant T-cell response that distinguishes the protected and susceptible animals. These data are very encouraging, but other components, particularly those derived from the schizont, need to be identified and characterized. The mild Theileria species of Japan and Korea (termed T. sergenti in the literature) cause fever and severe chronic anaemia. The schizont stage of the life cycle is very rare and the host cell type is not known. The pathology is associated with chronic piroplasm infection. Immunity can be induced by immunizing with crude piroplasm extracts. Serological analysis of immune sera reveals that the immunodominant antigen is a polypeptide of 30-33 kDa, which corresponds to the protective T. annulata polypeptide Tams1. (ABSTRACT T.

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