Scabies is a contagious skin disease of humans and many other species of mammals. Previous studies suggested that the balance between the Th1 and Th2 immune responses may influence the outcome of a scabies infestation in a sensitized host. Therefore, in this study, we examined the T-helper cell cytokine profiles of splenocytes and lymph node cells in BALB/c mice that were immunized with scabies extract (primary response), infested with scabies mites (primary response), or immunized and then infested (secondary response). Lymphocyte cytokine expression was analyzed by flow cytometry after staining for intracellular cytokines. Immunization with scabies extract induced production of interferon-γ (IFNγ) (Th1 response) by both spleen and lymph node cells. Mice that were infested with scabies increased production of interleukin-4 by lymph node cells and of IFNγ by splenocytes. Mice that were first immunized and then infested with mites increased production of IFNγ by both spleen and lymph node cells. However, this increased level of IFNγ was only about half of that induced by immunization alone. These results suggest that live scabies mites produced something that inhibited IFNγ production in the lymph nodes of scabies-immunized mice. Our data also indicate that lymphocytes in the spleen and lymph nodes can present different cytokine response profiles.

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