Onchocerciasis Fingerprints in the Geriatric Population: Does Host Immunity Play a Role?

Cabirou Mounchili Shintouo, Robert Adamu Shey, Tony Mets, Luc Vanhamme, Jacob Souopgui, Stephen Mbigha Ghogomu, Rose Njemini

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One of the most debilitating consequences of aging is the progressive decline in immune function, known as immunosenescence. This phenomenon is characterized by a shift in T-cell phenotypes, with a manifest decrease of naive T-cells-dealing with newly encountered antigens-and a concomitant accumulation of senescent and regulatory T-cells, leading to a greater risk of morbidity and mortality in older subjects. Additionally, with aging, several studies have unequivocally revealed an increase in the prevalence of onchocerciasis infection. Most lymphatic complications, skin and eye lesions due to onchocerciasis are more frequent among the elderly population. While the reasons for increased susceptibility to onchocerciasis with age are likely to be multi-factorial, age-associated immune dysfunction could play a key role in the onset and progression of the disease. On the other hand, there is a growing consensus that infection with onchocerciasis may evoke deleterious effects on the host's immunity and exacerbate immune dysfunction. Indeed, Onchocerca volvulus has been reported to counteract the immune responses of the host through molecular mimicry by impairing T-cell activation and interfering with the processing of antigens. Moreover, reports indicate impaired cellular and humoral immune responses even to non-parasite antigens in onchocerciasis patients. This diminished protective response may intensify the immunosenescence outcomes, with a consequent vulnerability of those affected to additional diseases. Taken together, this review is aimed at contributing to a better understanding of the immunological and potential pathological mechanisms of onchocerciasis in the older population.

Original languageEnglish
Article number153
Number of pages16
JournalTropical Medicine and Infectious Disease
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 19 Aug 2021


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