Impairment of Host Resistance to Helminthes with Age in Murine Small Intestine

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Age-associated alterations of Th2 immune responses against nematode parasites are largely unknown. We investigated primary and memory responses against two types of gastrointestinal nematode parasites, Heligmosomoides polygyrus (Hp) and Nippostrongylus brasiliensis (Nb), in aged mice. The small intestinal gene expression of Th2 cytokines was almost unchanged after primary (Nb and Hp) and secondary infection (Hp) in aged mice in contrast to strongly increased small intestinal gene expression of Th2 cytokines in young (3-month-old) mice. Mucus production decreased (Nb), and worm expulsion was impaired (Nb and Hp) compared with the young mice. Immunofluorescent staining revealed that after Hp infection, the number of alternatively activated macrophages, which are induced by Th2 cytokines, was lower in the aged mice. On the other hand, the number of CD4+ T cells recruited to the worm cysts was normal compared with the young mice. These results suggest that migration of CD4+ T cells to the host–parasite interface is not affected by ageing. Alterations in Th2 immune responses in aged mice might be due to inappropriate or insufficient activation of CD4+ T cells in the submucosa.

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