Tolerance and resistance to a nematode challenge are not always mutually exclusive

S Athanasiadou, K Tolossa, E Debela, A Tolera, JGM Houdijk

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The relationship between the manifestations of tolerance (a host’s ability to reduce the impact of a given level of pathogens) and resistance (a host’s ability to clear pathogens) has been assumed to be an antagonistic one. Here we tested the hypothesis that mice from strains more resistant to intestinal nematodes will experience reduced tolerance compared with less resistant mice. Three inbred strains of mice were used: C57BL/6 mice have been characterised as susceptible, whereas BALB/c and NIH mice have been characterised as resistant to Heligmosomoides bakeri infection. Mice of each strain were either parasitised with a single dose of 250 L3 H. bakeri (n = 10) in water or were sham-infected with water (n = 10). Body weight, food intake and worm egg output were recorded regularly throughout the experiment. Forty-two days p.i. mice were euthanised and organ weights, eggs in colon and worm counts were determined. C57BL/6 mice showed significantly greater worm egg output (P < 0.001), eggs in colon (P < 0.05) and female worm fecundity (P < 0.05) compared with NIH and BALB/c mice. Parasitised BALB/c mice grew more whilst parasitised C57BL/6 mice grew less than their sham-infected counterparts during the first 2 weeks post-challenge (P = 0.05). Parasitism significantly increased liver, spleen, small intestine and caecum weights (P < 0.001) but reduced carcass weight (P < 0.01). Average daily weight gain and worm numbers were positively correlated in NIH mice (P = 0.05); however, the relationship was reversed when carcass weight was used as a measure for tolerance. BALB/c mice did not appear to suffer from the consequences of parasitism, with carcass weight similar in all animals. Our hypothesis that strains more resistant to the H. bakeri infection are less tolerant compared with less resistant strains is rejected, as the two resistant strains showed variable tolerance. Thus, tolerance and resistance to an intestinal nematode infection are not always mutually exclusive. 2015 Published by Elsevier Ltd. on behalf of Australian Society for Parasitology Inc.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277 - 282
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal for Parasitology
Issue number4
Publication statusPrint publication - 2015

Bibliographical note



  • Genetic resistance
  • Heligmosomoides bakeri
  • Infection tolerance
  • Mice
  • Nematodes
  • Performance


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