Progress toward molecular characterization of ectoparasite modulation of host immunity

Vet Parasitol. 2001 Nov 22;101(3-4):275-87. doi: 10.1016/s0304-4017(01)00556-8.


Ectoparasitic arthropods and vector-borne infectious agents are global medical and veterinary public health concerns. Economic impact due to direct effects of infestation and disease transmission are significant. These problems are increased by development of arthropod resistance to insecticides/acaricides; drug resistance of vector-borne pathogens; and, lack of effective vaccines to prevent many of these diseases. There is much to be gained from understanding the complex array of immunological interactions occurring at the arthropod-host-pathogen interface. One application of that knowledge is the development of novel vaccines for the control of both ectoparasitic arthropods and the diseases they transmit. We now realize that blood-feeding arthropods are not simply flying or crawling hypodermic needles and syringes. Ectoparasitic arthropods are not passive partners in their relationships with the immune systems of their hosts. These clever invertebrates produce numerous pharmacologically active molecules that help them migrate through tissues of their hosts or to successfully obtain blood meals. Arthropod parasites stimulate a spectrum of host immune responses that could potentially impair development, reduce feeding success, or kill the ectoparasite. Not unexpectedly, arthropods have developed sophisticated arsenals of countermeasures that modulate or deviate host immune responses. Not only does arthropod modulation of host immunity facilitate survival in tissues or increase the likelihood of obtaining a blood meal, but it is increasingly recognized as a critical factor in pathogen transmission. Those countermeasures to host immune defenses are the topics of this review. Emphasis is placed on our current understanding of the molecular bases of those changes; the molecules responsible for host immunomodulation; contemporary approaches for studying these complex relationships; and, the potential for using this information to develop innovative vaccine-based control strategies.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthropod Vectors / immunology*
  • Arthropod Vectors / parasitology
  • Arthropods / immunology
  • Ectoparasitic Infestations / immunology
  • Ectoparasitic Infestations / transmission
  • Ectoparasitic Infestations / veterinary*
  • Host-Parasite Interactions / immunology
  • Immune Tolerance
  • Immunity, Cellular
  • Immunization
  • Insect Bites and Stings / immunology
  • Mite Infestations / immunology
  • Mite Infestations / transmission
  • Mite Infestations / veterinary
  • Mites
  • Tick Infestations / immunology
  • Tick Infestations / transmission
  • Tick Infestations / veterinary
  • Tick-Borne Diseases / immunology
  • Tick-Borne Diseases / transmission
  • Ticks
  • Vaccination / veterinary