The filarial-specific humoral immune response of adult residents of two areas of Papua New Guinea, differing in transmission of Wuchereria bancrofti infection was compared. The majority of residents of the village of Bonahoi, in an area where transmission of filariasis had been interrupted by a 20-year insecticide spray program to control malaria, showed no parasitologic signs of active W. bancrofti infection and were negative for both circulating phosphorylcholine Ag and peripheral blood microfilariae. In contrast, adult residents of the village of Nanaha were in an area exposed to infection, and were phosphorylcholine-Ag- and microfilariae-positive. The antibody response of these two groups to both adult worm excretory/secretory (ES) Ag and somatic antigen extract was examined to determine which components of the filarial-specific immune response were dependent on active infection. Identification of these immune responses may point to immunologic methods to evaluate control programs for lymphatic filariasis. Adults from Bonahoi were found to have significant immune responses to [35S] methionine-labeled ES Ag by immunoprecipitation and to adult somatic antigen extracts by ELISA and by immunoblotting. This result is consistent with the fact that these individuals were previously exposed to and/or infected with W. bancrofti. Similarly, residents of the endemic village had detectable immune responses to these Ag irrespective of if they were microfilaremic. The most striking immunologic difference observed between the two groups was that residents of Bonahoi had a dramatically reduced filarial-specific IgG4 antibody response to both adult somatic Ag and adult ES Ag. These data suggest that longitudinal measurement of filarial-specific IgG4 levels may be a useful seroepidemiologic indicator of changes in W. bancrofti infection status.

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