The front line molecules from filarial worms and other nematodes or helminthes are their Excretory-Secretory (ES) products. Their interaction with the host cells, proteins and immune system accounts for the skin and eye pathology or hyposensitivity observed in human onchocerciasis. ES products and adult worms’ crude extracts from Onchocerca ochengi, a filarial nematode that infects the African zebu cattle, were utilized in the present study as a model for studying Onchocerca volvulus that causes river blindness in man.
The ES products were generated from adult male and female worms in vitro and analyzed with poly acrylamide gel electrophoresis (PAGE) and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) using sera from Onchocerca-infected cattle and humans. The cattle sera were collected from a herd that had been exposed for six years to natural transmission of Onchocerca spp. The expressed reactivity was evaluated and differences analyzed statistically using Kruskal-Wallis rank and Chi-square tests.
The gel electrophoretic analyses of 156 ES products from O. ochengi female and male worms and of two somatic extracts from three females and 25 males revealed differences in the protein pattern showing pronounced bands at 15, 30–50 and 75 kDa for male ES proteins and 15, 25 and 40–75 kDa for somatic extracts, respectively and less than 100 kDa for female worms. Proteins in the ES products and somatic extracts from female and male Onchocerca ochengi worms were recognized by IgG in sera from both Onchocerca-exposed cattle and humans. Bovine serum antibodies reacted more strongly with proteins in the somatic extracts than with those in the ES products. Interestingly, the reaction was higher with male ES products than with ES products from female worms, suggesting that the males which migrate from one nodule to another are more exposed to the host immune system than the females which remain encapsulated in intradermal nodules.
This study demonstrates that O. ochengi ES products and, in particular, extracts from male filariae may represent a good source of immunogenic proteins and potential vaccine candidates.