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Keywords:

  • Female reproductive tract;
  • genital immunity;
  • trichomoniasis

PROBLEM: Mechanisms of protective immunity in the female reproductive tract are poorly understood. For sexually transmitted diseases, bovine trichomoniasis is a useful model because il resembles human trichomoniasis to some extent, and antibodies play an important role in protection against these extracellular parasites. Protective efficacy was compared in animals with genital responses of predominantly immunoglobulin G (IgG) or predominantly IgA antibodies to a purified surface antigen of Tritrichomonas foetus.

METHOD OF STUDY: Immunization of mice by various routes with immunoaffinity-purified T. foetus surface antigen (TF1.17) or killed cells was used to define the best routes and antigen combinations to give predominantly IgG or IgA antibodies to TF1.17 antigens in genital secretions. Cattle were then immunized either subcutaneously (SC) two times with TF1.17 antigen and once SC with killed T. foetus or twice SC with TF1.17 antigen and once intravaginally with killed T. foetus. All immunizations were in Quil A adjuvant. Controls were not immunized. Animals were challenged intravaginally with 106T. foetus 3 weeks after the third immunization. Vaginal mucus was collected weekly for culture and antibody assays. Serum was collected weekly, and uterine secretions were collected at 10 weeks post-challenge. Tissues were fixed at 10 weeks also.

RESULTS: Murine studies showed systemic priming with vaginal boosting gave the highest genital IgA responses. In cattle, systemic immunization (group S) induced high IgG1 antibody levels in vaginal secretions. Systemic priming with vaginal boosting (group S/V) primed for an anamnestic vaginal IgA response after challenge with T. foetus. Cattle with predominantly IgG or predominantly IgA responses in vaginal secretions either did not become infected or cleared infection faster than controls. Uterine IgA responses at 10 weeks were highest in the vaginally boosted group, but other responses were not different from the controls at this time point. Microscopic examination of genital tissues showed subepithelial infiltration of mononuclear cells in all groups. Lymphoid aggregates or nodules were detected in vaginal sections in cattle of groups S/V and C as well as in uterine sections of all animals in all three groups.

CONCLUSIONS: Both IgG and IgA antibodies to T. foetus superficial antigen were associated with protection. The timing of the response was related to the time of clearance. Lymphoid organization in the vagina and uterine tissues suggested development of mucosal inductive sites.