The capacity of hamster peritoneal cell populations to control viability and growth of Besnoitia and Toxoplasma organisms was assessed in vivo and in vitro. Immunized hamsters reduced the homologous organisms 100- to 10,000-fold over a 5-day period, but the heterologous infection increased 100- to 1,000-fold in numbers, similar as in the nonimmune controls. Passively administered antibody was ineffective although lytic cofactors were supplied by hamsters.

In cultures, peritoneal cells from Besnoitia-immune hamsters delayed the growth of homologous parasites to an average of 38.5 h per division; however, in Toxoplasma-immune and nonimmune cells, Besnoitia divided every 12.8 h. Specificity of immunity was pronounced against both infections. With cross-infections, Toxoplasma-immune cultures did not effectively delay Besnoitia growth; however, Besnoitia-immune cultures reduced Toxoplasma growth by one-half. Co-cultivation experiments demonstrated that specifically committed lymphocytes could instruct macrophages to reduce the homologous organism 10-fold, whereas heterologous organisms were reduced only 2-fold.

Lymphocyte supernatants initiated hypersensitivity as indicated by macrophage activation and giant cell formation in culture. However, these supernatants did not transfer infection immunity. Lymphokines could account for the hypersensitivity phenomena, but cell-mediated infection immunity in this model required close lymphocyte-macrophage proximity.

These studies indicate that a number of distinct processes including delayed hypersensitivity, macrophage activation, and specific cellular immunity are acting simultaneously during latent Besnoitia infection of hamsters. All three processes are mediated by lymphoid cells and appear to be specifically induced. Although activated macrophages develop some heightened nonspecific capabilities, these were several orders of magnitude below the specific effects.

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