Summary Infection with Fasciola hepatica causes an economically important disease in ruminants. Variability in parasite load may indicate innate differences in the host immune system. This study aimed to investigate the immunological mechanisms that are associated with variability in parasite burden following experimental F. hepatica infection in cross-bred sheep. Of a total of 16 animals, four were randomly chosen as uninfected controls, and the remainder infected with 100 viable metacercariae. Uninfected animals were used as the control group for evaluation of cytokine gene expression levels. For comparative analysis, specific animals were selected on the basis of extremes of fluke burdens, and were categorised into light (n = 4) and heavy burdened (n = 3) cohorts. Serum antibody levels, haematological parameters, and expression of IL-4 and IFN-γ genes in hepatic lymph nodes were equivalent in both groups. However, significant differences in mitogen-specific lymphocyte proliferation in vitro and in expression of TGF-β1 and IL-10 genes in hepatic lymph nodes were observed at acute and chronic phases of infection, respectively. These results provide useful information in developing further understanding of natural resistance to fasciolosis in sheep.
- Fasciola hepatica
- Natural resistance