Changes in the leukocyte population of the peritoneal cavity ensue immediately after infection with Taenia crassiceps metacestodes. Basophils and neutrophils decrease, whereas macrophages, monocytes, and lymphocytes increase to reach only modest levels by 6 wk and then diminish to nearly disappear by 15 wk when the parasite begins rapid reproduction. Eosinophils also appear early in infection, but then abate to lower levels that persist. In late infections, when the mass of cysticerci equals that of the mouse, the cysticerci grow among surprisingly few inflammatory cells. Mingling with the peritoneal inflammatory cells is a number of odd-looking cells that could correspond to the metaplasic mesothelial cells of the host or be of parasite origin. These cells are multinucleated, they aggregate in varigerated clusters, and form cystic structures in vitro; they also bind specific anti-T. crassiceps antibodies and specific T. crassiceps DNA probes in their nuclei. When the peritoneal cell exudate is reinjected intraperitoneally into naive mice, the odd-looking cells subsist for months, inducing in the host the synthesis of specific anti-T. crassiceps antibodies and immune resistance to challenge but do not reassemble into cysticerci even after 6 mo of inoculation. The early appearance and the immunogenic and antigenic properties of these odd-looking cells suggest they are important protagonists in the early host–parasite confrontation when the outcome of infection is set.

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