Antigenic variation in bacterial pathogens

Guy H. Palmer*, Troy Bankhead, H. Steven Seifert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

4 Scopus citations


Ross and Thompson's 1910 report of periodic spikes of Trypanosoma gambiense parasitemia (1), made possible by the relatively large size of the parasite, which allowed quantitation using light microscopy, was seminal in understanding how pathogens persist and led to later studies defining how trypanosomes and numerous other pathogens use antigenic variation to evade host immunity and clearance. Antigenic variation is a strategy used by a broad diversity of microbial pathogens to persist within mammalian hosts, from small RNA viruses, notably the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), to large eukaryotic parasites with multiple chromosomes, illustrated by trypanosomal and malarial parasites (2, 3). Using a variety of genetic mechanisms to generate antigenic variants, immune evasion results in the infected host serving as a microbial reservoir for subsequent transmission. Unlike respiratory and gastrointestinal pathogens that have essentially continual opportunities for transmission, arthropod vector-borne and sexually transmitted pathogens have episodic transmission opportunities. Correspondingly, both vector-borne and sexually transmitted agents are overrepresented among antigenically variant pathogens (3, 4).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationVirulence Mechanisms of Bacterial Pathogens
Number of pages36
ISBN (Electronic)9781683670711
ISBN (Print)9781555819279
StatePublished - Apr 9 2016


  • Anaplasma marginale
  • Antigenic variation
  • Bacterial pathogens
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus
  • Outer membrane protein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine
  • General Immunology and Microbiology


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