Rapid improvement of immunity to Teladorsagia circumcincta is achieved through a reduction in the demand for protein in lactating ewes
Protein supplementation can improve the resistance to parasites of periparturient ewes, as indicated by reduced nematode egg excretion and worm burdens. However, the rate at which this improvement can occur is largely unknown. We investigated the rate of improvement by assessing temporal changes in faecal egg counts after we experimentally reduced nutrient demand. Three groups of nine pregnant ewes each were trickle infected with Teladorsagia circumcincta from day(-70) to day(16) (parturition is day(0)). Two groups of twin-rearing ewes were fed at 0.8 (L22) or 1.2 (H22) times their assumed metabolizable protein requirements, and a third group was fed the same daily food allowances as L22 ewes, but one of their lambs was removed on day(10) (L21). Ewes were slaughtered on day(21) to assess worm burdens, in vitro larval establishment on abomasal explants, and mucosal inflammatory cells. Faecal egg counts of L22 ewes were higher than H22 ewes throughout lactation. After the removal of one lamb, faecal egg counts of L21 ewes decreased within 5 days to levels similar to H22 ewes. Relative to L22 ewes, L21 and H22 ewes had lower worm burdens, parasite per capita fecundity and in vitro establishment rates of both T. circumcincta and Haemonchus contortus. Mucosal mast cell and eosinophil counts were similar for all ewes, but H22 ewes had higher globule leukocyte counts than L22 and L21 ewes. The data Suggest that a reduction in protein demand can rapidly improve periparturient immunity to T. circumcincta. This may be associated with increased parasite expulsion, reduced fecundity and non-parasite specific reduction of in vitro larval establishment. (C) 2005 Australian Society for Parasitology Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.