Alveolar echinococcosis (AE), caused by the Echinococcus multilocularis metacestode, represents one of the most frequently fatal zoonoses. Early diagnosis significantly reduces morbidity and mortality associated with AE. Diagnosis of AE largely depends on a combination of imaging and serological tests due to its minimal clinical manifestations. Several antigens derived from the whole worm and protoscolex have been targeted for AE serodiagnosis, while the antigenic properties of E. multilocularis hydatid fluid (EmHF) are unclear. We observed two AE-specific 6-and 8-kDa antigen proteoforms through an immunoproteome array of the EmHF. We identified these proteins as representing an E. multilocularis antigen B3 (EmAgB3) isoform, and the proteins were shown to be encoded by the same gene. We cloned the gene and expressed the recombinant EmAgB3 protein (rEmAgB3) in Escherichia coli. rEmAgB3 exhibited sensitivity of 90.9% (80/88 cases) and specificity of 98.5% (597/606 samples) by immunoblotting. The positive and negative predictive values were 89.9% and 98.6%, respectively. The protein did not show antibody responses to 33 AE sera collected during posttreatment follow-up monitoring. Mouse sera experimentally infected with AE protoscoleces began to demonstrate specific antibody responses to native and recombinant EmAgB3 6 months after infection. At that stage, fully mature metacestode vesicles that harbored the brood capsule, primary cell, and protoscolex were observed within an AE mass(es). The response declined along with worm degeneration. Our results demonstrate that the immune responses to this EmAgB3 isoform were highly correlated with worm viability accompanied with AE progression. rEmAgB3 is a promising biomarker for serological assessment of AE patients.
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