Mechanisms controlling anaemia in Trypanosoma congolense infected mice

PLoS One. 2009;4(4):e5170. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0005170. Epub 2009 Apr 13.


Background: Trypanosoma congolense are extracellular protozoan parasites of the blood stream of artiodactyls and are one of the main constraints on cattle production in Africa. In cattle, anaemia is the key feature of disease and persists after parasitaemia has declined to low or undetectable levels, but treatment to clear the parasites usually resolves the anaemia.

Methodology/principal findings: The progress of anaemia after Trypanosoma congolense infection was followed in three mouse strains. Anaemia developed rapidly in all three strains until the peak of the first wave of parasitaemia. This was followed by a second phase, characterized by slower progress to severe anaemia in C57BL/6, by slow recovery in surviving A/J and a rapid recovery in BALB/c. There was no association between parasitaemia and severity of anaemia. Furthermore, functional T lymphocytes are not required for the induction of anaemia, since suppression of T cell activity with Cyclosporin A had neither an effect on the course of infection nor on anaemia. Expression of genes involved in erythropoiesis and iron metabolism was followed in spleen, liver and kidney tissues in the three strains of mice using microarrays. There was no evidence for a response to erythropoietin, consistent with anaemia of chronic disease, which is erythropoietin insensitive. However, the expression of transcription factors and genes involved in erythropoiesis and haemolysis did correlate with the expression of the inflammatory cytokines Il6 and Ifng.

Conclusions/significance: The innate immune response appears to be the major contributor to the inflammation associated with anaemia since suppression of T cells with CsA had no observable effect. Several transcription factors regulating haematopoiesis, Tal1, Gata1, Zfpm1 and Klf1 were expressed at consistently lower levels in C57BL/6 mice suggesting that these mice have a lower haematopoietic capacity and therefore less ability to recover from haemolysis induced anaemia after infection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute-Phase Proteins / genetics
  • Acute-Phase Proteins / metabolism
  • Africa
  • Anemia / etiology*
  • Anemia / immunology
  • Anemia / parasitology
  • Anemia / veterinary
  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism
  • Female
  • Ferritins / genetics
  • Ferritins / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Hematopoiesis / physiology
  • Hemoglobins / metabolism
  • Hepatomegaly
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / physiology
  • Iron / metabolism
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Microarray Analysis
  • Parasitemia / immunology
  • Splenomegaly
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Transferrin / genetics
  • Transferrin / metabolism
  • Trypanosoma congolense / metabolism*
  • Trypanosoma congolense / pathogenicity
  • Trypanosomiasis, African / complications*
  • Trypanosomiasis, African / immunology
  • Trypanosomiasis, African / veterinary


  • Acute-Phase Proteins
  • Hemoglobins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Transferrin
  • Ferritins
  • Iron