Activated macrophages are thought to kill Trypanosoma cruzi, which lack catalase, by the generation of hydrogen peroxide. We investigated triggering of the respiratory burst of activated macrophages induced by phagocytosis of virulent T. cruzi, bloodform trypomastigotes, amastigotes obtained from spleens, and tissue culture organisms; and of relatively nonvirulent epimastigotes. All stages of T. cruzi prompted the release of less than 10% of hydrogen peroxide released by activated macrophages when stimulated with PMA or Candida. Superoxide anion production was not stimulated by PMA or Candida in activated macrophages nor was there a significant qualitative reduction of nitroblue tetrazolium induced by ingestion of virulent T. cruzi. Opsonization of T. cruzi with specific antibody did not promote the release of hydrogen peroxide or the reduction of nitroblue tetrazolium. Similar results were observed with activated spleen macrophages. Incubation of activated macrophages with catalase, catalase and superoxide dismutase, sodium benzoate with or without catalase, and respiratory burst-exhausting PMA failed to inhibit the killing of T. cruzi in vitro. These results indicate that 1) virulent opsonized or unopsonized T. cruzi do not trigger a respiratory burst by activated macrophages and 2) oxygen-independent killing of T. cruzi is of prime importance.

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