The original host of the swimbladder nematode Anguillicola crassus, the Japanese eel (Anguilla japonica) and the recently colonized European eel (Anguilla anguilla) were immunized with 40 irradiated (500 Gy) 3rd-stage larvae (L3) of this parasite and challenged with an infection of 40 normal L3. The immunization induced a significant reduction of the number of adult worms developing from the challenge infection in A. japonica, but not in A. anguilla. The induced resistance (calculated using the relation of the number of adult worms in immunized eels and in non-immunized control eels) in A. japonica was 87.3%+/-30.4%. Following a single infection, the percentage of adult worms found in A. japonica was lower as compared to A. anguilla, and the few adult worms were much smaller, revealing a lower susceptibility of A. japonica to A. crassus in comparison to A. anguilla. Both eel species developed an antibody response against A. crassus, but the level of antibody responses was not positively correlated with the protection against infection, suggesting that the antibody response is not a key element in resistance of eels against A. crassus. This study suggests that the original host of A. crassus is able to mount efficient protective immune responses against its parasite, whereas the newly acquired host seems to lack this ability.
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