A frequently observed feature of active infection with filarial nematodes is the presence of lymphocytes in the bloodstream that have impaired responsiveness to antigen. It is generally accepted that such a defect in lymphocyte function could contribute to the failure of the immune system to eliminate filarial nematodes. For this reason, understanding the mechanism underlying lymphocyte 'hyporesponsiveness' is an important goal for immunologists who study filarial nematodes. Thus, although there has long been an interest in answering questions such as what stage(s) of the nematode causes hyporesponsiveness, more recently, lymphocyte hyporesponsiveness has been increasingly studied at the molecular level. The result of this is that we are now beginning to learn much of the nature and cause of phenotypic changes in the hyporesponsive lymphocyte and also of the identity of the nematode-derived molecules that induce them. As this information continues to be generated, the challenge will be to use it to find a way of reversing lymphocyte hyporesponsiveness in the hope that this will lead to rejection of filarial nematodes in the parasitized human host.
- excretory–secretory products
- signal transduction