Larvae of several common species of parasitic nematodes obligately migrate through, and often damage, host lungs. The larvae induce strong pulmonary Type 2 immune responses, including T-helper (Th)2 cells as well as alternatively activated macrophages (AAMφ) and associated chitinase and Fizz/resistin family members (ChaFFs), which are thought to promote tissue repair processes. Given the prevalence of systemic or lung-resident Type 1-inducing pathogens in geographical areas in which nematodes are endemic, we wished to investigate the impact of concurrent Type 1 responses on the development of these Type 2 responses to nematode larval migration. We therefore infected BALB/c mice with the nematode Nippostrongylus brasiliensis, in the presence or absence of Plasmodium chabaudi chabaudi malaria parasites. Co-infected animals received both infections on the same day, and disease was assessed daily before immunological measurements were taken at 3, 5, 7 or 20 days post-infection.
We observed that the nematodes themselves caused transient loss of body mass and red blood cell density, but co-infection then slightly ameliorated the severity of malarial anaemia. We also tracked the development of immune responses in the lung and thoracic lymph node. By the time of onset of the adaptive immune response around 7 days post-infection, malaria co-infection had reduced pulmonary expression of ChaFFs. Assessment of the T cell response demonstrated that the Th2 response to the nematode was also significantly impaired by malaria co-infection.
P. c. chabaudi co-infection altered both local and lymph node Type 2 immune activation due to migration of N. brasiliensis larvae. Given recent work from other laboratories showing that N. brasiliensis-induced ChaFFs correlate to the extent of long-term lung damage, our results raise the possibility that co-infection with malaria might alter pulmonary repair processes following nematode migration. Further experimentation in the co-infection model developed here will reveal the longer-term consequences of the presence of both malaria and helminths in the lung.