Regulation of egg production, worm burden, worm length and worm fecundity by host responses in sheep infected with Ostertagia circumcincta
Stear, M. J.
Bishop, S. C.
Duncan, J. L.
Holmes, P. H.
Following infection with Ostertagia circumcincta there was considerable variation in worm burdens, worm size and number of inhibited larvae even among sheep matched for age, sex, breed, farm of origin and history of parasite exposure. There was also substantial variation among sheep in the concentration of mast cells, globule leucocytes, eosinophils, IgA-positive plasma cells and parasite-specific IgA in the abomasal mucosa. With the exception of faecal egg counts over time, the parasitological and immunological traits were all continually distributed among animals and sheep did not fall into discrete high and low-responder categories. The responses were correlated. Sheep with more mast cells also had more globule leucocytes, more eosinophils, more IgA plasma cells and greater amounts of parasite-specific IgA in the abomasal mucosa. Female worm length was strongly and positively correlated with the number of eggs in utero. Faecal egg counts were associated with variation in worm number and with variation in the number of eggs in utero. The worm burden was negatively correlated with the number of globule leucocytes in the abomasal mucosa, suggesting that worm numbers are regulated by immediate hypersensitivity reactions. Decreased female worm length was associated with an increased local IgA response to fourth stage larvae. The number of inhibited larvae was positively associated with the size of the local IgA response and positively associated with the size of the worm burden. The results suggest that variation among mature sheep in faecal egg counts is due, at least in part, to variation in local IgA responses which regulate worm fecundity and to variation in local immediate hypersensitivity reactions which regulate worm burdens.