Immunological aspects of nematode parasite control in sheep.

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Gastrointestinal nematode parasitism is arguably the most serious constraint affecting sheep production worldwide. Economic losses are caused by decreased production, the costs of prophylaxis and treatment, and the death of the infected animals. The nematode of particular concern is Haemonchus contortus, which can cause severe blood loss resulting in anemia, anorexia, depression, loss of condition, and eventual death. The control of nematode parasites traditionally relies on anthelmintic treatment. The evolution of anthelmintic resistance in nematode populations threatens the success of drug treatment programs. Alternative strategies for control of nematode infections are being developed, and one approach is to take advantage of the host's natural or acquired immune responses, which can be used in selection programs to increase the level of resistance in the population. Vaccination can also be used to stimulate or boost the host's acquired immunity. The induction of protective resistance is dependent on the pattern of cytokine gene expression induced during infection by two defined CD4+ T-helper cell subsets, which have been designated as Th1 or Th2. Intracellular parasites most often invoke a Th1-type response, and helminth parasites a Th2-type response. Breeds of sheep resistant to infection have developed resistance over a much longer term of host-parasite relationship than genetically selected resistant lines. The immune components involved in these different responses and types of host-parasite relationships will be reviewed. The potential for using vaccines has been investigated, with variable results, for several decades. The few successes and potential new antigen candidates will also be reviewed.

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Journal of animal science

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