Onchocerciasis and immunity in humans: enhanced T cell responsiveness to parasite antigen in putatively immune individuals

J Infect Dis. 1988 Mar;157(3):536-43. doi: 10.1093/infdis/157.3.536.


To identify possible immune mechanisms in human onchocerciasis, we compared a group of 12 individuals who had no clinical or parasitological evidence of infection, despite ongoing exposure to the parasite, with a group of 16 individuals from the same area who had active Onchocerca volvulus infection. Despite having less parasite-specific serum antibody, the infection-free ("putatively immune") individuals showed greater lymphocyte responsiveness, especially interleukin-2 (IL-2) production, to O. volvulus antigen (OVA) than did the infected subjects; lymphocyte responses (including IL-2 production) to mitogens and nonparasite antigen in both study groups were equivalent and normal. Our findings define differences in parasite-specific T cell subpopulations between infected and putatively immune subjects that could be a central element in developing or maintaining protective immunity to O. volvulus infection.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Helminth / analysis
  • Antigens, Helminth / immunology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interferon-gamma / biosynthesis
  • Interleukin-2 / biosynthesis
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Onchocerca / immunology*
  • Onchocerciasis / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • Antibodies, Helminth
  • Antigens, Helminth
  • Interleukin-2
  • Interferon-gamma