Pathogenicity of Theileria parva is influenced by the host cell type infected by the parasite

Ivan Morrison, Niall MacHugh, Paul A Lalor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Theileria parva has been shown to infect and transform B cells and T cells at similar frequencies in vitro. However, the majority of parasitized cells in the tissues of infected cattle are alpha/beta T cells. The aim of this study was to determine whether the cell type infected with T. parva influenced the pathogenicity of the parasite. The initial approach, which involved inoculation of cattle with autologous cloned cell lines of different phenotypes, failed to resolve the issue, because of prolonged period of culture required to clone and characterize the cell lines resulted in attenuation of the cells. As an alternative approach, cattle were inoculated with purified populations of autologous cells that had been incubated in vitro with T. parva sporozoites for 48 h. As few as 3 x 10(4) peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) treated in this way were found to produce severe clinical reactions with high levels of parasitosis. Infections of similar severity were produced with purified populations of CD2+, CD4+, and CD8+ T cells. By contrast, infected B cells gave rise to mild self-limiting infections even when administered at a 10-fold-higher dose. In animals that received infected CD4+ or CD8+ T cells, the parasitized cells in the lymph nodes on day 11 of infection were all within the CD4+ and CD8+ populations, respectively, indicating that there had been minimal transfer of the parasite between cell types. Phenotypic analyses of cultures of PBMC infected in vitro with saturating concentrations of sporozoites revealed that parasitized B cells were abundant in the cultures after 1 week but were subsequently overgrown by T cells. The results of these experiments indicate that the cell type infected by T. parva influences the pathogenicity of the parasite.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)557-62
Number of pages6
JournalInfection and Immunity
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1996


  • Animals
  • B-Lymphocytes/parasitology
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes/parasitology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes/parasitology
  • Cattle
  • Cell Line
  • Lymphocytes/parasitology
  • Male
  • Theileria parva/pathogenicity
  • Theileriasis/immunology


Dive into the research topics of 'Pathogenicity of Theileria parva is influenced by the host cell type infected by the parasite'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this