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The schistosome in the mammalian host: understanding the mechanisms of adaptation

  • J. R. KUSEL (a1), B. H. AL-ADHAMI (a1) and M. J. DOENHOFF (a2)


In this review, we envisage the host environment, not as a hostile one, since the schistosome thrives there, but as one in which the relationship between the two organisms consists of constant communication, through signalling mechanisms involving sense organs, surface glycocalyx, surface membrane and internal organs of the parasite, with host fluids and cells. The surface and secretions of the schistosome egg have very different properties from those of other parasite stages, but adapted for the dispersal of the eggs and for the preservation of host liver function. We draw from studies of mammalian cells and other organisms to indicate how further work might be carried out on the signalling function of the surface glycocalyx, the raft structure of the surface and existence of pores in the surface membrane, the repair of the surface membrane, the role of the membrane structure in ion channel function (including recent work on the actin cytoskeleton and calcium channels) and the possible role of P-glycoproteins in the adaptation of the parasite to its environment. We are speculative in some areas, such as the suggestions that variability in surface properties of schistosomes may relate to the existence of membrane rafts and that parasite communities may exhibit quorum sensing. This speculative approach is adopted with the hope that future work on the whole organisms and their interactions will be encouraged.


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: Glasgow Biomedical Research Centre, 120 University Place, GlasgowG12 8TA, UK. Tel: 0141 330 5471. Fax: 0141 330 4600. E-mail:


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