Hookworms cause a major neglected tropical disease, occurring after larvae penetrate the host skin. Neutrophils are phagocytes that kill large pathogens by releasing neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs), but whether they target hookworms during skin infection is unknown. Using a murine hookworm, Nippostrongylus brasiliensis, we observed neutrophils being rapidly recruited and deploying NETs around skin-penetrating larvae. Neutrophils depletion or NET inhibition altered larvae behavior and enhanced the number of adult worms following murine infection. Nevertheless, larvae were able to mitigate the effect of NETs by secreting a deoxyribonuclease (Nb-DNase II) to degrade the DNA backbone. Critically, neutrophils were able to kill larvae in vitro, which was enhanced by neutralizing Nb-DNase II. Homologs of Nb-DNase II are present in other nematodes, including the human hookworm, Necator americanus, which also evaded NETs in vitro. These findings highlight the importance of neutrophils in hookworm infection and a potential conserved mechanism of immune evasion.
Keywords: DNAse II; Nippostrongylus brasiliensis; helminth; hookworm; immune-evasion; neutrophil extracellular traps; neutrophils.
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