, Volume 91, Issue 4, pp 298-303
Date: 22 Aug 2003

Investigations on the biology, epidemiology, pathology and control of Tunga penetrans in Brazil: III. Cytokine levels in peripheral blood of infected humans

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Tungiasis is caused by penetration of the female jigger flea, Tunga penetrans, into the skin of its host. This parasitic skin disease is almost invariably associated with intense inflammation around embedded fleas, the underlying mechanisms being unknown. A study was undertaken to determine whether the inflammatory process can be attributed to immune activation induced by a biologically active foreign body. We determined the concentrations of Th1-mediated (IFN-γ, TNF-α) and Th2-mediated (IL-4) cytokines in the sera of patients with tungiasis. The results were compared with those of controls infected with different helminths or exposed to soil-transmitted helminths. The results show that tungiasis causes a mixed Th1 and Th2 immune response, characterized by significantly increased concentrations of the pro-inflammatory cytokines IFN-γ and TNF-α, with a slightly increased concentration of IL-4. The preponderance of the Th1 immune response was indicated by a significantly increased TNF-α/IL-4 ratio in patients with tungiasis, as compared with the control groups.