Evaluation of serology to measure exposure of piglets to Ascaris suum during the nursery phase.
BACKGROUND The pig parasite Ascaris suum plays and important role in veterinary medicine and represents a suitable model for A. lumbricoides, which infects over 800 million people. In pigs, continued exposure to Ascaris induces immunity at the level of the gut, protecting the host against migrating larvae. The objective of this study was to identify and characterize parasite antigens targeted by this local immune response that may be crucial for parasite invasion and establishment and to evaluate their protective and diagnostic potential. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS Pigs were immunized by trickle infection for 30 weeks, challenged with 2,000 eggs at week 32 and euthanized two weeks after challenge. At necropsy, there was a 100% reduction in worms recovered from the intestine and a 97.2% reduction in liver white spots in comparison with challenged non-immune control animals. Antibodies purified from the intestinal mucus or from the supernatant of cultured antibody secreting cells from mesenteric lymph nodes of immune pigs were used to probe L3 extracts to identify antibody targets. This resulted in the recognition of a 12kDa antigen (As12) that is actively shed from infective Ascaris L3. As12 was characterized as a phosphorylcholine-containing glycolipid-like antigen that is highly resistant to different enzymatic and chemical treatments. Vaccinating pigs with an As12 fraction did not induce protective immunity to challenge infection. However, serological analysis using sera or plasma from experimentally infected pigs or naturally infected humans demonstrated that the As12 ELISA was able to detect long-term exposure to Ascaris with a high diagnostic sensitivity (98.4% and 92%, respectively) and specificity (95.5% and 90.0%) in pigs and humans, respectively. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE These findings show the presence of a highly stage specific, glycolipid-like component (As12) that is actively secreted by infectious Ascaris larvae and which acts as a major antibody target in infected humans and pigs.