High variation in immune responses and parasite phenotypes in naturally acquired Trypanosoma cruzi infection in a captive non-human primate breeding colony in Texas, USA

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High variation in immune responses and parasite phenotypes in naturally acquired Trypanosoma cruzi infection in a captive non-human primate breeding colony in Texas, USA

Trypanosoma cruzi, the causative agent of human Chagas disease, is endemic to the southern region of the United States where it routinely infects many host species. The indoor/outdoor housing configuration used in many non-human primate research and breeding facilities in the southern of the USA provides the opportunity for infection by T. cruzi and thus provides source material for in-depth investigation of host and parasite dynamics in a natural host species under highly controlled and restricted conditions. For cynomolgus macaques housed at such a facility, we used a combination of serial blood quantitative PCR (qPCR) and hemoculture to confirm infection in >92% of seropositive animals, although each method alone failed to detect infection in >20% of cases. Parasite isolates obtained from 43 of the 64 seropositive macaques were of 2 broad genetic types (discrete typing units, (DTU’s) I and IV); both within and between these DTU groupings, isolates displayed a wide variation in growth characteristics and virulence, elicited host immune responses, and susceptibility to drug treatment in a mouse model. Likewise, the macaques displayed a diversity in T cell and antibody response profiles that rarely correlated with parasite DTU type, minimum length of infection, or age of the primate. This study reveals the complexity of infection dynamics, parasite phenotypes, and immune response patterns that can occur in a primate group, despite being housed in a uniform environment at a single location, and the limited time period over which the T. cruzi infections were established.

Padilla AM, Yao PY, Landry TJ, Cooley GM, Mahaney SM, Ribeiro I, VandeBerg JL. Tarleton RL. (2021) High variation in immune responses and parasite phenotypes in naturally acquired Trypanosoma cruzi infection in a captive non-human primate breeding colony in Texas, USA. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 15(3): e0009141. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0009141