Immunisation of channel catfish, Ictalurus punctatus, with Ichthyophthirius multifiliis immobilisation antigens elicits serotype-specific protection.
Surface immobilisation antigens (i-antigens) were purified from two strains of Ichthyophthirius multifiliis (NY1 and G5) that represent different i-antigen serotypes, namely A and D, respectively. The efficacy of the purified antigens as subunit vaccines was then tested in challenge studies using parasites of the homologous or heterologous serotype. Three groups of juvenile channel catfish (70 animals per group) were immunised with i-antigens from either the G5 or NY1 isolates, or with bovine serum albumin (BSA) as a control. Proteins were injected intraperitoneally (i.p.) at a dose of 10 microg/fish with complete Freund's adjuvant on day 1, followed by a second injection in incomplete Freund's adjuvant on day 15. Fish immunised with the purified i-antigens developed high titres of serum immobilising antibodies whereas sera from BSA-injected control fish did not. Fish antisera immobilised parasites of the homologous, but not the heterologous strain, and recognised the corresponding i-antigens on Western blots run under non-reducing conditions. On day 36, each group was divided into two subgroups (n=30). One subgroup was challenged with G5 parasites, and the other was challenged with NY1 parasites. When challenged with G5 parasites, 70% of fish immunised with the G5 i-antigens survived. When challenged with NY1 parasites, 33.3% of fish immunised with the NY1 i-antigens survived. All BSA-injected control fish died, as did all fish injected with the purified antigens and challenged with the non-homologous parasite strain. Statistical analyses indicated significant differences among test and control groups with regard to the mean days to death (MDD). While the results of these studies clearly support a role for i-antigens in protection, active immunity in response to natural infection is not serotype-specific. The utility of i-antigens, as well as the existence of other potential vaccine candidates for the prevention of 'white-spot' disease, are discussed.