A century after the discovery of Trypanosoma cruzi in a child living in Lassance, Minas Gerais, Brazil in 1909, many uncertainties remain with respect to factors determining the pathogenesis of Chagas disease (CD). Herein, we simultaneously investigate the contribution of both host and parasite factors during acute phase of infection in BALB/c mice infected with the JG and/or CL Brener T. cruzi strains. JG single infected mice presented reduced parasitemia and heart parasitism, no mortality, levels of pro-inflammatory mediators (TNF-α, CCL2, IL-6 and IFN-γ) similar to those found among naïve animals and no clinical manifestations of disease. On the other hand, CL Brener single infected mice presented higher parasitemia and heart parasitism, as well as an increased systemic release of pro-inflammatory mediators and higher mortality probably due to a toxic shock-like systemic inflammatory response. Interestingly, coinfection with JG and CL Brener strains resulted in intermediate parasitemia, heart parasitism and mortality. This was accompanied by an increase in the systemic release of IL-10 with a parallel increase in the number of MAC-3+ and CD4+ T spleen cells expressing IL-10. Therefore, the endogenous production of IL-10 elicited by coinfection seems to be crucial to counterregulate the potentially lethal effects triggered by systemic release of pro-inflammatory mediators induced by CL Brener single infection. In conclusion, our results suggest that the composition of the infecting parasite population plays a role in the host response to T. cruzi in determining the severity of the disease in experimentally infected BALB/c mice. The combination of JG and CL Brener was able to trigger both protective inflammatory immunity and regulatory immune mechanisms that attenuate damage caused by inflammation and disease severity in BALB/c mice.
Chagas disease, a life-long parasitic disease caused by the flagellate protozoan Trypanosoma cruzi, was discovered a century ago by the Brazilian physician Carlos Chagas, and remains one of the most neglected tropical diseases, affecting 13 million people in Latin America. Disease is characterized by distinct clinical courses, varying from asymptomatic to severe forms with damage to heart and/or gastrointestinal tract. The causes of the different clinical manifestations are not completely understood, but they certainly involve both parasite and host features. In this study, the authors analyzed immune response of BALB/c mice to infection with two different T. cruzi populations. One of them (JG) caused low parasitism and low levels of pro-inflammatory mediators associated with no clinical manifestation of the disease. The other (CL Brener) caused severe disease, high mortality and high levels of pro-inflammatory mediators. The coinfection, however, triggered singular regulatory immune mechanism(s) that attenuated damage caused by inflammation and disease severity that are typical of the single infection with CL Brener. As mixed infection is naturally found in patients in endemic areas, these results can explain, at least in part, the complexity of the immune responses and consequently the various clinical manifestations of the disease.