Infection of humans with filarial parasites has long been associated with the maintenance of a dominant Th2-type host immune response. This is reflected by increases in interleukin (IL)–4– and IL-5–producing T cells, elevated immunoglobulin (Ig)E and IgG4 levels, and a pronounced eosinophilia. The Mongolian gerbil (Meriones unguiculatus) is permissive for the filarial nematodes Brugia malayi and B. pahangi. As in humans, persistent microfilaremic infections of gerbils with Brugia spp. results in increases in Th2 cytokines such as IL-4 and IL-5. The association of dominant Th2 cytokine profiles with the maintenance of infection suggests that the introduction of Brugia spp. into a strongly Th1-biased environment may adversely affect parasite establishment. Indeed, studies conducted in mice with B. malayi suggest that depleting Th1 effectors such as interferon (IFN)–γ and nitric oxide results in increased worm recoveries. In the present studies, the Mongolian gerbil was used as a model to investigate the effect of a dominant Th1 cytokine environment on the establishment of B. pahangi. Intraperitoneal (i.p.) administration of immunostimulatory oligodeoxynucleotide (IS ODN) induced the production of IFN-γ in the peritoneal exudate cells and spleen of gerbils. The presence of IFN-γ at the time of B. pahangi infection did result in an altered host immune response to B. pahangi. Gerbils that received IS ODN before i.p. B. pahangi infections showed lower levels of the Th2-type cytokines IL-4 and IL-5, compared with animals that received B. pahangi alone (0 + Bp). This alteration in cytokine profile, however, did not alter the establishment or development of B. pahangi in the peritoneal cavity. Furthermore, there was no difference in the granulomatous response of gerbils to soluble adult B. pahangi antigen bound to beads embolized in their lungs, regardless of treatment group, suggesting that IL-4 and IL-5 are not essential contributors to the systemic host inflammatory response to B. pahangi in this model.

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