Haemonchus contortus and Haemonchosis: Past, Present and Future Trends
Sheep are capable of developing protective immunity to Haemonchus contortus through repeated exposure to this parasite, although this immune protection is the result of a complex interaction among age, gender, physiological status, pregnancy, lactation, nutrition and innate and adaptive immunity in the host animal. There are multiple effectors of the protective immune response, which differ depending on the developmental stage of the parasite being targeted, and our understanding of the effector mechanisms has developed considerably in the 2000s. The rational design of vaccines based on 'natural' or 'exposed' antigens depends on an understanding of this exposure-induced immunity. However, the most effective current vaccines rely on protection via the induction of high circulating antibody levels to 'hidden' gut antigens of H. contortus. The success of this latter strategy has resulted in the launch of a vaccine, which is based on extracts of the parasite's gut, to aid in the control of Haemonchus in Australia. The development of recombinant subunit vaccines based on the components of the successful native vaccine has not yet been achieved and most of the recent successes with recombinant subunit vaccines have focussed on antigens unrelated to the gut antigens. The future integration of an understanding of the immunobiology of this parasite with advances in antigen identification, expression (or synthesis) and presentation is likely to be pivotal to the further development of these recombinant subunit vaccines. Recent progress in each of the components underpinning this integrated approach is summarized in this review.