The kinetics of Theileria parva infection and lymphocyte transformation in vitro

Mara S. Rocchi, Keith Ballingall, Niall MacHugh, Declan McKeever

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Theileriaparva is an intracellular protozoan parasite that causes a fatal lymphoproliferative disease of cattle known as East Coast Fever. The parasite infects host lymphocytes causing their transformation and uncontrolled proliferation. Infiltration of major organs with parasitized lymphoblasts results in most cases in death within 3 weeks. Although both T and B lymphocytes are susceptible to infection, the majority of cell lines arising from infection of peripheral blood mononuclear cells in vitro are of T cell lineage. To explore the basis of this phenotypic bias we have followed the very early stages of parasite development in vitro at the single cell level. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells were infected and stained for both surface phenotype and intracellular parasite antigen and analysed by flow cytometry. Although the parasite antigen was detected intracellularly as early as 6h p.i., our data indicate that parasite infection does not lead to cell transformation in all instances. Rather, specific cell types appear to undergo selection very early after infection and expansion of particular cell subsets results in survival and growth of only a small proportion of the cells originally parasitized.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)771-8
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal For Parasitology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • Animals
  • Antigens, Protozoan/blood
  • Antigens, Protozoan/immunology
  • B-Lymphocytes/immunology
  • B-Lymphocytes/parasitology
  • Cattle
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Immunodominant Epitopes/blood
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Lymphocyte Activation/immunology
  • Lymphocyte Subsets/immunology
  • Lymphocyte Subsets/parasitology
  • Protozoan Proteins/blood
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets/immunology
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets/parasitology
  • Theileria parva/growth & development
  • Theileria parva/immunology
  • Theileriasis/immunology


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