• Morphological variability in the mucosal attachment site of Trichuris muris revealed by X-ray microcomputed tomography.

      O'Sullivan, James D B; Cruickshank, Sheena M; Withers, Philip J; Else, Kathryn J; email: kathryn.else@manchester.ac.uk (2021-06-30)
      Parasitic infections can be challenging to study because two dimensional light and electron microscopy are often limited in visualising complex and inaccessible attachment sites. Exemplifying this, Trichuris spp. inhabit a tunnel of epithelial cells within the host caecum and colon. A significant global burden of this infection persists, partly because available anthelminthics lack efficacy, although the mechanisms underlying this remain unknown. Consequently, there is a need to pioneer new approaches to better characterize the parasite niche within the host and investigate how variation in its morphology and integrity may contribute to resistance to therapeutic intervention. To address these aims, we exploited three-dimensional X-ray micro-computed tomography (microCT) to image the mouse whipworm, Trichuris muris, in caeca of wild-type C57BL/6 and SCID mice ex vivo. Using osmium tetroxide staining to effectively enhance the contrast of worms, we found that a subset exhibited preferential positioning towards the bases of the intestinal crypts. Moreover, in one rare event, we demonstrated whipworm traversal of the lamina propria. This morphological variability contradicts widely accepted conclusions from conventional microscopy of the parasite niche, showing Trichuris in close contact with the host proliferative and immune compartments that may facilitate immunomodulation. Furthermore, by using a skeletonization-based approach we demonstrate considerable variation in tunnel length and integrity. The qualitative and quantitative observations provide a new morphological point of reference for future in vitro study of host-Trichuris interactions, and highlight the potential of microCT to characterise enigmatic host-parasite interactions more accurately. [Abstract copyright: Copyright © 2021 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.]