Rats thymectomized at birth were infected with Nippostrongylus brasiliensis at 6 weeks of age. In some, but not all, rats egg production was greatly prolonged after the primary infection. Thymectomized rats were less resistant than controls to second infections.
In rats infected at birth the development of resistance was significantly delayed. Neonatally infected rats, when they were 6 weeks old, were less resistant to reinfection than adult controls. Rats infected three times in the neonatal period were more resistant to challenge at 6 weeks of age than rats infected once at birth, but less resistant than adult controls. The degree of immunity induced by a single neonatal infection was variable; some rats showed little or no resistance to reinfection 6 weeks later.
Antibody formation, measured by the occurrence of reagins, was altered in the same way by both neonatal thymectomy and neonatal infection. In the thymectomized (immunologically deficient) and newborn (immunologically immature) rats, reagin formation following initial infection was delayed; there was a reduced anamnestic response after challenge; mean titres were lower and more variable than in control animals; and in some rats circulating reagins were never detected.
In thymectomized rats the capacity to demonstrate anaphylaxis was as variable as in control rats, but in the few thymectomized rats in which egg production was prolonged, anaphylaxis was slight at a time when most intact rats had developed the capacity to show anaphylaxis. Rats infected at birth and adult rats infected at the same time were equally susceptible to systemic anaphylaxis 6 weeks later, although by this time there was a marked difference in the degree of resistance to the parasite developed by the two groups.
In adult rats splenectomy before, during or after initial infection had no effect either on the rate of development, or the degree of immunity induced by primary or secondary infections, or on antibody formation.
We would like to thank Miss W. Griffiths and A. J. Edwards for their willing technical assistance. This work was done whilst one of us (B.M.O.) was the holder of a Wellcome Fellowship of the Animal Health Trust.