After the demonstration of blocking antibodies during rat experimental schistosomiasis, the existence of such factors was investigated in human schistosomiasis. The depletion, in sera from S. mansoni-infected patients, of a given isotype (IgM) either by protein A-Sepharose (PAS) absorption or by fast protein liquid chromatography (FPLC) induced a significant increase in IgG-mediated killing of S. mansoni schistosomula by human eosinophils. Inhibition experiments showed that IgM-enriched fractions (PAS effluents) were able to inhibit eosinophil-dependent cytotoxicity mediated by IgG fractions (total sera or PAS eluates). Both IgG and IgM antibodies from infected human sera immunoprecipitated antigens of 30,000-40,000 Mr in the labeled detergent extracts of schistosomulum surface. The specificity of IgG and IgM for the 38,000 Mr antigen was suggested by competition experiments using two radiolabeled mAbs (IPLSm1, IPLSm3) directed against this antigen. Moreover, crossinhibition between IgG and IgM antibodies for the Mr 38,000 antigen could be directly demonstrated. The in vivo relevance of such IgM blocking antibodies in the context of human immunity to schistosomiasis was evaluated in two groups of children classified as resistant or susceptible to posttreatment reinfection. IgM antibodies specifically directed against the 38,000 Mr antigen were measured by a capture assay. The mean levels of IgM antibodies were significantly higher in the susceptible than in the resistant group both before and after treatment. These results are consistent with the idea that immunity to schistosomiasis could be attributable not only to the existence of antibodies with defined effector function, but also to the absence of blocking antibodies. The description of the existence in human schistosomiasis of antibody isotypes blocking the effector response against defined surface targets might lead to a new understanding of the mechanisms regulating immunity to reinfection against schistosomes and possibly other parasites.

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