Hypothalamic-pituitary gonadal axis and immune response imbalance during chronic filarial infections


Donatien Mavoungou and Gontran Maka, Centre de recherche sur les pathologies hormonales (CRPH), BP 12134 Libreville, Gabon. E-mail: crph2000@yahoo.fr
Virginie Poaty-Mavoungou, Unité de Recherches Médicales, Hôpital Albert Schweitzer, Lambaréné, Gabon. E-mail: virpoaty@yahoo.fr
Brice Ongali and Marie Yvonne Akoume, Département de Pharmacologie, Université de Montréal, C.P. 6128 Succursale Centre-Ville, Montréal, Québec, Canada H3C 3J7. E-mail: brice.ongali@mail.mcgill.ca; myvonne@mail.mcgill.ca
Elie Mavoungou, Institute for Tropical Medicine, Department of Parasitology, University of Tübingen, Wilhelmstrasse 27, 72074 Tübingen, Germany. E-mail: elie.mavoungou@uni-tuebingen.de (corresponding author).


Bi-directional relationships operate between the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis and the immune system. Cytokines, peptide hormones and their shared receptors/ligands are used as a common biological language for communication within and between the immune and neuroendocrine systems. Such communication suggests an immunoregulatory role for the brain and a sensory function for the immune system. We used a radioimmunoassay to measure the concentrations of steroid hormones (cortisol, testosterone, estradiol and progesterone) and pituitary hormones [follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH) human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) and prolactin] in peripheral blood plasma from 78 young Gabonese women with chronic filarial infections. We used an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay to determine the concentrations of four proinflammatory cytokines [tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), gamma interferon (IFN-γ), interleukin-1 (IL-1) and IL-6] in the same plasma samples. Progesterone was unchanged and all other steroid hormone plasma concentrations were lower in microfilaremic women than in amicrofilaremic women. The concentration of LH was higher in amicrofilaremic women, whereas the prolactin concentration was higher in microfilaremics. The plasma concentrations of TNF-α, IFN-γ, IL-1 and IL-6 were higher in microfilaremic women. A strong negative correlation was found between the steroid and pituitary hormones and the pro-inflammatory cytokines. Conversely, a strong positive correlation was found between prolactin and the same cytokines. These data provide first evidence of immune system and hormonal system disturbance during chronic filarial infections and suggest that the observed imbalance should be taken into account in the diagnosis and treatment of filarial infections.