Vaccination with cathepsin L phage-exposed mimotopes, single or in combination, reduce size, fluke burden, egg production and viability in sheep experimentally infected with Fasciola hepatica
Fascioliasis is a worldwide emergent zoonotic disease that significantly constrains the productivity of livestock. In this study, fluke burdens, liver fluke size and biomass, faecal eggs counts, serum levels of hepatic enzymes and immune response were assessed in sheep vaccinated with peptide mimotopes of cathepsin L and infected with metacercariae. A total of 25 sheep were allocated randomly into five groups of five animals each, and experimental groups were immunised with 1 × 1013 filamentous phage particles of cathepsin L1 (CL1) (TPWKDKQ), CL2 (YGSCFLR) and mixtures of CL1 + CL2 mimotopes, in combination with Quil A adjuvant, and wild-type M13KE phage in a two-vaccination scheme on weeks 0 and 4. The control group received phosphate-buffered saline. All groups were challenged with 300 metacercariae two weeks after the last immunisation and euthanised 16 weeks later. The CL1 vaccine was estimated to provide 57.58% protection compared with the control group; no effect was observed in animals immunised with CL2 and CL1 + CL2 (33.14% and 11.63%, respectively). However, animals receiving CL2 had a significant reduction in parasite egg output. Vaccinated animals showed a significant reduction in fluke length and width and wet weights. In the CL1 group, there was a significant reduction in the total biomass of parasites recovered. Egg development was divided into seven stages: dead, empty, unembryonated, cell division, eyespot, hatched and hatching. The highest percentage of developmental stages was detected for vaccinated sheep administered CL1 + CL2 with cell division, and the lowest percentage was observed in the hatching stage. Furthermore, a significant difference in all developmental stages was observed between vaccinated animals and the control group (P < 0.01). The levels of anti-phage total IgG in immune sera increased significantly at four weeks after immunisation and were always significantly higher for cathepsin L vaccine group than in the challenged control group. Total IgG was inversely and significantly correlated with worm burden in the CL1 group.