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The immune response of the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) and devil facial tumour disease


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Woods, GM, Kreiss, A, Bekov, K, Siddle, HV, Obendorf, DL and Muller, HK 2007 , 'The immune response of the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) and devil facial tumour disease' , EcoHealth, vol. 4, no. 3 , pp. 338-345 , doi: 10.1007/s10393-007-0117-1.

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One of the most remarkable aspects of Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) is its infectious nature,
and for successful transmission it must avoid detection by the devil’s immune system. For this to occur, the
devil either is severely immunosuppressed or factors produced by the tumor contribute to its avoidance of
immune detection. An analysis of the devil’s immune system revealed the presence of normal-looking lymphoid
organs and lymphoid cells. At a functional level the lymphocytes proliferated in response to mitogen
stimulation. Subcutaneous injection of a cellular antigen produced a strong antibody response, providing
compelling evidence that the devil has a competent immune system. Tumor cell analysis demonstrated that the
tumor expresses the genes of the major histocompatibility complex; however, there was a limited diversity.
Therefore, the most likely explanation for devil-to-devil transmission of DFTD is that the tumor is not
recognized by the devil as ‘‘non-self’’ because of the limited genetic diversity. With its consistent morphology
and relatively stable genome, this tumor would provide a reasonable target for a vaccine approach, provided the
immune system can be coaxed into recognizing the tumor as ‘‘non-self.’’

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Woods, GM and Kreiss, A and Bekov, K and Siddle, HV and Obendorf, DL and Muller, HK
Journal or Publication Title: EcoHealth
Publisher: Springer
ISSN: 1612-9202
DOI / ID Number: 10.1007/s10393-007-0117-1
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