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Vet Parasitol. 2001 Jul 12;98(1-3):51-64.

Role of the bovine immune system and genome in resistance to gastrointestinal nematodes.

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  • 1Immunology and Disease Resistance Laboratory, ARS, USDA, Beltsville, MD 20705-5130, USA.

Abstract

Gastrointestinal nematode infections of cattle remain a constraint on the efficient raising of cattle on pasture throughout the world. Most of the common genera of parasites found in cattle stimulate an effective level of protective immunity in most animals within the herd after the animals have been on pasture for several months. In contrast, cattle remain susceptible to infection by Ostertagia for many months, and immunity that actually reduces the development of newly acquired larvae is usually not evident until the animals are more than 2 years old. This prolonged susceptibility to reinfection is a major reason that this parasite remains the most economically important GI nematode in temperate regions of the world. Although, animals remain susceptible to reinfection for a prolonged period of time, there are a number of manifestations of the immune response that result in an enhanced level of herd immunity. These include a delay in the development time of the parasites, an increase in the number of larvae that undergo an inhibition in development, morphological changes in the worms, stunting of newly acquired worms, and most importantly a reduction in the number of eggs produced by the female worms. The overall result of these manifestations of immunity is a reduction in parasite transmission within the cattle herd. The immune mechanisms responsible for these different types of functional immunity remain to be defined. In general, GI nematode infections in mammals elicit very strong Th2-like responses characterized by high levels of Interleukin 4 (IL4), high levels of IgG1 and IgE antibodies, and large numbers of mast cells. In cattle, the most extensively studied GI nematode, in regards to host immune responses, is Ostertagia ostertagi. In Ostertagia infections, antigens are presented to the host in the draining lymph nodes very soon after infection, and within the first 3-4 days of infection these cells have left the nodes, entered the peripheral circulation, and have homed to tissues immediately surrounding the parasite where they become established. The immune response seen in the abomasum is in many ways are similar to that seen other mammalian hosts, with high levels of expression of IL4 in the draining lymph nodes and in lymphocytes isolated from the mucosa. But unlike a number of other systems, lymphocyte populations taken from Ostertagia infected cattle seem to be up-regulated for a number of other cytokines, most notably Interferon (IFN, implying that in Ostertagia infections, the immune response elicit is not simply a stereotypic Th2 response. In addition, effector cell populations in the tissues surrounding the parasites, are not typical, inferring the Ostertagia has evolved means to suppress or evade protective immune mechanisms. Studies have also demonstrated that the number of nematode eggs/gram (EPG) in feces of pastured cattle is strongly influenced by host genetics and that the heritability of this trait is approximately 0.30. In addition, EPG values are not "normally" distributed and a small percentage of a herd is responsible for the majority of parasite transmission. This suggests that genetic management of a small percentage of the herd can considerably reduce overall parasite transmission. A selective breeding program has been initiated to identify the host genes controlling resistance/susceptibility to the parasites. The best indicator of the number of Cooperia infecting a host is the EPG value, while Ostertagia is best measured by serum pepsinogen levels, weight gain, and measures of anemia. Other phenotypic measures are either not significantly associated with parasite numbers or are very weakly correlated. In addition, calves can be separated into three types: (1) Type I which never demonstrates high EPG values, (2) Type II which shows rises in EPG values through the first 2 months on pasture which then fall and remain at levels associated with Type I calves, and (3) Type III calves which maintain high EPG levels. The approximate percentage of these calves is 25:50:25 respectively. Because these cattle are segregating for traits involved in resistance and susceptibility to GI nematodes, this resource population is being used to effectively detect the genomic locations of these Economic Trait Loci (ETL). For relational analysis between phenotype and genome location, over 80,000 genotypes have been generated by PCR amplification, and marker genotypes have been scored to produce inheritance data. The marker allele inheritance data is currently being statistically analyzed to detect patterns of co-segregation between allele haplotype and EPG phenotypes. Statistical power of this genome-wide scan has been strengthened by including genotypic data from the historic pedigree. In our herd, paternal half-sib families range from 5-13 progeny/sire, and extensive marker genotypes are available from ancestors of the population most of which are paternally descended from a single founding sire. Once ETL have been identified the next will be to refine ETL map resolution in attempt to discover the genes underlying disease phenotypes. Accurate identification of genes controlling resistance will offer the producer several alternatives for disease control. For a non-organic producer, the small percentage of susceptible animals can be targeted for drug administration. This approach would reduce both the cost of anthelmintics used and the odds for selection of drug resistant mutants, because the selective agent (drug) would not be applied over the entire parasite population. A second treatment option would be based on correcting a heritable immunologic condition. In this case, susceptible animals could be the targets for immunotherapy involving vaccines of immunomodulation. A final option would be genetic selection to remove susceptible animals from the herd. Producers with a high degree of risk for parasite-induced production losses, such as organic producers of producers in geographic areas with environmental conditions favorable to high rates of transmission would benefit the most from this strategy. In contrast, producers at low risk could take a more conservative approach and select against susceptibility when other factors were equal.

PMID:
11516579
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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