Immunocompetent C57BL/6 mice were infected with Sarcocystis neurona merozoites to assess the protective immune response to active infection. Using a direct agglutination test, all infected mice seroconverted to S. neurona merozoite antigens by day 14 postinfection (PI). Further, mice developed splenomegaly and bilateral symmetrical lymphadenopathy by day 14 PI, which appeared to be resolving by day 28 PI. Histologic analysis revealed a marked increase in germinal center formation in the spleen and lymph nodes by day 14 PI. Corresponding to gross and histopathological changes, the percentage of B-cells decreased significantly by day 14 PI but then increased significantly and persisted at day 28 PI in the blood, spleen, and multiple lymph nodes. There was a sharp nonspecific significant decrease in CD4 percentages by day 14 PI in the blood, spleen, and lymph nodes. Early-activation CD8 lymphocytes (CD62/CD8) were significantly down-regulated coinciding with a significant compensatory up-regulation of memory (CD44/CD8) lymphocytes in multiple organs. We propose that the protective cell-mediated immune response to S. neurona involves both CD4 and CD8 cells, with CD8 lymphocytes appearing to play a more critical role.

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