Dairy heifers naturally exposed to Fasciola hepatica develop a type 2 immune response and concomitant suppression of leukocyte proliferation


Graham-Brown J, Hartley C, Clough H, Kahioglu A, Baylis M, Williams DL


Fasciola hepatica is a parasitic trematode of global importance in livestock. Control strategies reliant on anthelmintics are unsustainable due to the emergence of drug resistance. Vaccines are under development, but efficacies are variable. Evidence from experimental infection suggests that vaccine efficacy may be affected by parasite-induced immunomodulation. Little is known about the immune response to F. hepatica following natural exposure. Hence, we analyzed the immune responses over time in calves naturally exposed to F. hepatica infection. Cohorts of replacement dairy heifer calves (n = 42) with no prior exposure to F. hepatica, on three commercial dairy farms, were sampled over the course of a grazing season. Exposure was determined through an F. hepatica-specific serum antibody enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and fluke egg counts. Concurrent changes in peripheral blood leukocyte subpopulations, lymphocyte proliferation, and cytokine responses were measured. Relationships between fluke infection and immune responses were analyzed by using multivariable linear mixed-effect models. All calves from one farm showed evidence of exposure, while cohorts from the remaining two farms remained negative over the grazing season. A type 2 immune response was associated with exposure, with increased interleukin-4 (IL-4) production, IL-5 transcription, and eosinophilia. Suppression of parasite-specific peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) proliferation was evident, while decreased mitogen-stimulated gamma interferon (IFN-γ) production suggested immunomodulation, which was not restricted to parasite-specific responses. Our findings show that the global immune response is modulated toward a nonproliferative type 2 state following natural challenge with F. hepatica. This has implications in terms of the timing of the administration of vaccination programs and for host susceptibility to coinfecting pathogens.


Infection and Immunity

Research Themes:

Vector Biology & Climate Modelling