Antigenic variation in vector-borne pathogens

Emerg Infect Dis. Sep-Oct 2000;6(5):449-57. doi: 10.3201/eid0605.000502.


Several pathogens of humans and domestic animals depend on hematophagous arthropods to transmit them from one vertebrate reservoir host to another and maintain them in an environment. These pathogens use antigenic variation to prolong their circulation in the blood and thus increase the likelihood of transmission. By convergent evolution, bacterial and protozoal vector-borne pathogens have acquired similar genetic mechanisms for successful antigenic variation. Borrelia spp. and Anaplasma marginale (among bacteria) and African trypanosomes, Plasmodium falciparum, and Babesia bovis (among parasites) are examples of pathogens using these mechanisms. Antigenic variation poses a challenge in the development of vaccines against vector-borne pathogens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anaplasma* / genetics
  • Anaplasma* / pathogenicity
  • Animals
  • Antigenic Variation* / genetics
  • Antigenic Variation* / immunology
  • Babesia bovis* / genetics
  • Babesia bovis* / pathogenicity
  • Bacterial Infections / immunology
  • Bacterial Infections / transmission*
  • Borrelia* / genetics
  • Borrelia* / pathogenicity
  • Disease Vectors*
  • Humans
  • Parasitic Diseases / immunology
  • Parasitic Diseases / transmission*
  • Plasmodium falciparum* / genetics
  • Plasmodium falciparum* / pathogenicity