In schistosomiasis control programmes using mass chemotherapy, epidemiological and morbidity aspects of the disease need to be studied so as to monitor the impact of treatment, and make recommendations accordingly. These aspects were examined in the community of Musoli village along Lake Victoria in Mayuge district, highly endemic for Schistosoma mansoni infection.
Methodology and Principal Findings
A cross sectional descriptive study was undertaken in a randomly selected sample of 217 females and 229 males, with a mean age of 26 years (SD ±16, range 7–76 years). The prevalence of S. mansoni was 88.6% (95% CI: 85.6–91.5). The geometric mean intensity (GMI) of S. mansoni was 236.2 (95% CI: 198.5–460.9) eggs per gram (epg) faeces. Males had significantly higher GMI (370.2 epg) than females (132.6 epg) and age was also significantly associated with intensity of infection. Levels of water contact activities significantly influenced intensity of infection and the highest intensity of infection was found among people involved in fishing. However, organomegaly was not significantly associated with S. mansoni except for very heavy infection (>2000 epg). Liver image patterns C and D indicative of fibrosis were found in only 2.2% and 0.2%, respectively. S. mansoni intensity of infection was associated with portal vein dilation and abnormal spleen length. Anaemia was observed in 36.4% of the participants but it was not associated with S. mansoni infection intensity. Considering growth in children as one of the morbidity indicators of schistosomiasis, intensity of S. mansoni was significantly associated with stunting.
Although organ-related morbidity, with the exception of periportal fibrosis, and S. mansoni infections were highly prevalent, the two were only associated for individuals with very high infection intensities. These results contrast starkly with reports from Ugandan Lake Albert fishing communities in which periportal fibrosis is more prevalent.
Schistosoma mansoni infection is one of the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) that perpetuate poverty, especially in Sub Saharan Africa. It is associated with hepatomegaly, splenomegaly or hepatosplenomegaly, liver fibrosis and anaemia. Control of schistosomiasis is now a priority in most endemic countries in Africa as a component of integrated control of NTDs using mass drug administration (MDA). Other than the new WHO strategic plan to eliminate schistosomiasis as a public health problem in WHO Africa region by 2020, the major target in the control of schistosomiasis has for a long time been reduction of its related morbidity. Epidemiological and morbidity studies are key in monitoring the impact of an intervention. However, epidemiology of schistosomiasis and its related morbidity have been shown to vary in different endemic areas and communities. We report on the epidemiology of S. mansoni infection and related morbidity in a community in Mayuge District along Lake Victoria in Uganda.
Background: Presentation with a firm type of chronic hepatomegaly of multifactorial etiology is common among school-age children in sub-Saharan Africa.
Objective: Aflatoxin is a liver toxin and carcinogen contaminating staple maize food. In this study we examined its role in chronic hepatomegaly.
Methods: Plasma samples collected in 2002 and again in 2004 from 218 children attending two schools in neighboring villages were assayed for aflatoxin exposure using the aflatoxin-albumin adduct (AF-alb) biomarker. Data were previously examined for associations among hepatomegaly, malaria, and schistosomiasis.
Results: AF-alb levels were high in children from both schools, but the geometric mean (95% confidence interval) in year 2002 was significantly higher in Matangini [206.5 (175.5, 243.0) pg/mg albumin] than in Yumbuni [73.2 (61.6, 87.0) pg/mg; p < 0.001]. AF-alb levels also were higher in children with firm hepatomegaly [176.6 (129.6, 240.7) pg/mg] than in normal children [79.9 (49.6, 128.7) pg/mg; p = 0.029]. After adjusting for Schistosoma mansoni and Plasmodium infection, we estimated a significant 43% increase in the prevalence of hepatomegaly/hepatosplenomegaly for every natural-log-unit increase in AF-alb. In 2004, AF-alb levels were markedly higher than in 2002 [539.7 (463.3, 628.7) vs. 114.5 (99.7, 131.4) pg/mg; p < 0.001] but with no significant difference between the villages or between hepatomegaly and normal groups [539.7 (436.7, 666.9) vs. 512.6 (297.3, 883.8) pg/mg], possibly because acute exposures during an aflatoxicosis outbreak in 2004 may have masked any potential underlying relationship.
Conclusions: Exposure to aflatoxin was associated with childhood chronic hepatomegaly in 2002. These preliminary data suggest an additional health risk that may be related to aflatoxin exposure in children, a hypothesis that merits further testing.
aflatoxicosis outbreak; aflatoxin; aflatoxin albumin adducts; biomarker; child health; hepatomegaly; hepatosplenomegaly; malaria; schistosomiasis
Chronic hepatosplenomegaly, which is known to have a complex aetiology, is common amongst children who reside in rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa. Two of the more common infectious agents of hepatosplenomegaly amongst these children are malarial infections and schistosomiasis. The historical view of hepatosplenomegaly associated with schistosomiasis is that it is caused by gross periportal fibrosis and resulting portal hypertension. The introduction of ultrasound examinations into epidemiology studies, used in tandem with clinical examination, showed a dissociation within endemic communities between presentation with hepatosplenomegaly and ultrasound periportal fibrosis, while immuno-epidemiological studies indicate that rather than the pro-fibrotic Th2 response that is associated with periportal fibrosis, childhood hepatosplenomegaly without ultrasound-detectable fibrosis is associated with a pro-inflammatory response. Correlative analysis has shown that the pro-inflammatory response is also associated with chronic exposure to malarial infections and there is evidence of exacerbation of hepatosplenomegaly when co-exposure to malaria and schistosomiasis occurs. The common presentation with childhood hepatosplenomegaly in rural communities means that it is an important example of a multi-factorial disease and its association with severe and subtle morbidities underlies the need for well-designed public health strategies for tackling common infectious diseases in tandem rather than in isolation.
Praziquantel treatment of schistosomiasis boosts anti-schistosome responses, with ‘type 2 helper T-cell’ bias that may contribute to immunologically mediated killing and to protection against re-infection. Praziquantel treatment during pregnancy was recommended in 2002 but immunological effects of the treatment had not been investigated.
A cohort of 387 S. mansoni infected women was recruited within a larger trial of de-worming during pregnancy (ISRCTN32849447; http://www.controlled-trials.com/ISRCTN32849447/elliott). Women were randomised to receive either praziquantel or placebo during pregnancy. Six weeks after delivery all women received praziquantel. Whole blood culture cytokine responses to S. mansoni worm and egg antigens were measured before and six weeks after each treatment.
Schistosome specific cytokine responses were suppressed during pregnancy. Praziquantel treatment during pregnancy caused significant boosts in gamma interferon (IFNγ), interleukin (IL)-2, IL-4, IL-5 IL-13 and IL-10 responses to schistosome worm antigen and IFNγ, IL-5 and IL-13 to schistosome egg antigen; but these boosts were not as substantial as those seen for treatment after delivery.
Pregnancy suppresses potentially beneficial boost in cytokine responses associated with praziquantel treatment. Further studies are needed on the long term effect of treating schistosomiasis during pregnancy on morbidity and resistance to reinfection among treated women and their offspring.
Schistosomiasis; Schistosoma mansoni; human; praziquantel; treatment; pregnancy; cytokines; immunology; immune responses
Hepatosplenomegaly among school-aged children in sub-Saharan Africa is highly prevalent. Two of the more common aetiological agents of hepatosplenomegaly, namely chronic exposure to malaria and Schistosoma mansoni infection, can result in similar clinical presentation, with the liver and spleen being chronically enlarged and of a firm consistency. Where co-endemic, the two parasites are thought to synergistically exacerbate hepatosplenomegaly. Here, two potential health consequences, i.e. dilation of the portal vein (indicative of increased portal pressure) and stunting of growth, were investigated in a study area where children were chronically exposed to malaria throughout while S. mansoni transmission was geographically restricted. Hepatosplenomegaly was associated with increased portal vein diameters, with enlargement of the spleen rather than the liver being more closely associated with dilation. Dilation of the portal vein was exacerbated by S. mansoni infection in an intensity-dependent manner. The prevalence of growth stunting was not associated with either relative exposure rates to malarial infection or with S. mansoni infection status but was significantly associated with hepatosplenomegaly. Children who presented with hepatosplenomegaly had the lowest height-for-age Z-scores. This study shows that hepatosplenomegaly associated with chronic exposure to malaria and schistosomiasis is not a benign symptom amongst school-aged children but has potential long-term health consequences.
Malaria; Schistosomiasis; Hepatosplenomegaly; Portal vein; Stunting; Nutritional status
The endemic countries are in a diagnostic dilemma concerning Schistosoma japonicum with increasing difficulties in diagnosing the infected individuals. The formol-ethyl acetate sedimentation concentration technique is preferred by many clinical microbiology laboratories for the detection of parasites in stool samples. It is potentially more sensitive than the diagnostic methods traditionally used.
We evaluated the technique for detection of low-intensity S. japonicum infections in 106 stool samples from China and used a commercial kit, Parasep Midi Faecal Parasite Concentrator. One stool sample and one serum sample were collected from each person. As reference standard we used persons positive by indirect hemagglutination in serum and positive by Kato-Katz thick smear microscopy (three slides from a single stool), and/or the hatching test. We found the sedimentation technique to have a sensitivity of only 28.6% and specificity of 97.4%.
This study indicates that the sedimentation technique has little to offer in the diagnosis of low-intensity S. japonicum infections, at least when only a single stool sample is examined.
Schistosoma japonicum is parasitic fluke (worm) found in China, Indonesia and the Philippines. A lot of effort has been put into combating the parasite, and the result has been a large drop in the number of infected people over the last decades. The average infected person also now has few worms, and hence excretes few eggs in stool. This has made it increasingly difficult to get a correct diagnosis by the diagnostic tests traditionally used. Tests based on detecting eggs in stool can be false-negative and tests detecting antibodies can be false-positive due to persisting antibodies or antibodies from other worm infections. Hence there is a need for new diagnostic strategies. Formol-ethyl acetate sedimentation concentration is a technique for detecting eggs in stool by microscopy, but has not to our knowledge been evaluated for S. japonicum. We compared the technique, using a single stool sample and a commercial preparation kit, with three tests traditionally used in the endemic countries (Kato-Katz thick smear, hatching test and indirect hemagglutination antibody detection). The sedimentation technique detected disappointing few positives and seems not to be an advantage in the diagnosis of low-intensity S. japonicum infection, compared to the traditionally used tests.
Hepatosplenomegaly among Kenyan schoolchildren has been shown to be exacerbated where there is transmission of both Schistosoma mansoni and Plasmodium falciparum. This highly prevalent and chronic morbidity often occurs in the absence of ultrasound-detectable periportal fibrosis and may be due to immunological inflammation. For a cohort of school-age children, whole-blood cultures were stimulated with S. mansoni soluble egg antigen (SEA) or soluble worm antigen (SWA). Responses to SWA were found to be predominantly Th2 cytokines; however, they were not significantly associated with either hepatosplenomegaly or infection with S. mansoni or P. falciparum. In comparison, SEA-specific Th2 cytokine responses were low, and the levels were negatively correlated with S. mansoni infection intensities and were lower among children who were coinfected with P. falciparum. Tumor necrosis factor alpha levels in response to stimulation with SEA were high, and a negative association between presentation with hepatomegaly and the levels of the regulatory cytokines interleukin-6 and transforming growth factor β1 suggests that a possible mechanism for childhood hepatomegaly in areas where both malaria and schistosomiasis are endemic is poor regulation of an inflammatory response to schistosome eggs.
Amongst school-aged children living in malaria endemic areas, chronic morbidity and exacerbation of morbidity associated with other infections are often not coincident with the presence or levels of Plasmodium parasitaemia, but may result from long-term exposure to the parasite. Studies of hepatosplenomegaly associated with Schistosoma mansoni infection and exposure to Plasmodium infection indicate that differences that occur over 1–2 km in levels of Plasmodium transmission are related to the degree of exacerbation of hepatosplenomegaly and that Plasmodium falciparum schizont antigen (Pfs)-IgG3 levels may be a marker for the differing levels of exposure.
To investigate the validity of Pfs-IgG3 measurements as a tool to assess these comparative exposure levels on a microgeographical scale, cross-sectional community surveys were conducted over a 10 × 6 km study site in Makueni District, Kenya, during low and high malaria transmission seasons. During both high and low malaria transmission seasons, thick blood smears were examined microscopically and circulating Pfs-IgG3 levels measured from dried blood spot elute. GIS techniques were used to map prevalence of parasitaemia and Pfs-IgG3 levels.
Microgeographical variations in prevalence of parasitaemia were observed during the high but not the low transmission season. Pfs-IgG3 levels were stable between high and low transmission seasons, but increased with age throughout childhood before reaching a plateau in adults. Adjusting Pfs-IgG3 levels of school-aged children for age prior to mapping resulted in spatial patterns that reflected the microgeographical variations observed for high season prevalence of parasitaemia, however, Pfs-IgG3 levels of adults did not. The distances over which age-adjusted Pfs-IgG3 of school-aged children fluctuated were comparable with those distances over which chronic morbidity has previous been shown to vary.
Age-adjusted Pfs-IgG3 levels of school-aged children are stable and when mapped can provide a tool sensitive enough to detect microgeographical variations in malaria exposure, that would be useful for studying the aetiology of morbidities associated with long-term exposure and co-infections.
Eosinophil activity in vivo and in vitro was studied in relation to infection intensities and plasma cytokine profiles of 51 Schistosoma mansoni-infected Ugandan fishermen before treatment and 24 h and 3 weeks posttreatment. Blood eosinophil numbers significantly declined 24 h posttreatment, but significant eosinophilia had developed by 3 weeks posttreatment. Cellular eosinophil cationic protein (ECP) content increased significantly during the transient eosinopenia but was significantly reduced 3 weeks later. No similar reduction in cellular eosinophil protein X (EPX) content was seen. Before treatment, S. mansoni infection intensity was positively correlated with 24-h boosts in plasma interleukin-5 (IL-5) and IL-6 levels, which were in turn negatively correlated with the posttreatment fall in eosinophil numbers. Significant correlations were observed between pretreatment infection intensities and plasma IL-10 and eotaxin levels. Treatment induced significant fluctuations in plasma IL-5, IL-6, IL-10, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), and eotaxin levels. Optimal relative release of ECP and EPX in vitro was detected in S. mansoni soluble egg antigen-stimulated cultures during transient eosinopenia. Our data suggest that blood eosinophils are activated during S. mansoni infection and that treatment induces a burst in released antigens, causing increased production of IL-5, IL-6, IL-10, and eotaxin; a drop in TNF-α levels; and a transient sequestration of eosinophils, which leaves fewer degranulated eosinophils in the circulation 24 h posttreatment, followed by the development of eosinophilia 3 weeks later. During these events, it appears that preferential release of ECP occurs in vivo. Moreover, it is possible that infection intensity-dependent levels of plasma IL-10 may be involved in the prevention of treatment-induced anaphylactic reactions.
Schistosoma mansoni and malaria infections are often endemic in the same communities in sub-Saharan Africa, and both have pathological effects on the liver and the spleen. Hepatosplenomegaly associated with S. mansoni is exacerbated in children with relatively high exposure to malaria. Treatment with praziquantel reduces the degree of hepatosplenomegaly, but the condition does not completely resolve in some cases. The present analysis focused on the possibility that exposure to malaria infection may have limited the resolution of hepatosplenomegaly in a cohort of Kenyan schoolchildren.
Ninety-six children aged 6–16, from one community in Makueni district, Kenya, were treated with praziquantel. At baseline, all children had hepatomegaly and most had splenomegaly. The source of S. mansoni infection, a river, was molluscicided regularly over the following three years to limit S. mansoni re-infection, whereas malaria exposure was uninterrupted. Hepatic and splenic enlargement was assessed annually outside the malaria transmission season.
Children living in an area of relatively high exposure to both infections presented with the largest spleens before treatment and at each follow-up. Spleens of firm consistency were associated with proximity to the river. The regression of hepatomegaly was also affected by location, being minimal in an area with relatively low S. mansoni exposure but high exposure to malaria, and maximal in an area with relatively low exposure to both infections.
The outcome of treating cases of hepatosplenomegaly with praziquantel in this cohort of Kenyan children depended strongly on their level of exposure to malaria infection. Furthermore, a residual burden of hepatosplenic morbidity was observed, which was possibly attributable to the level of exposure to malaria. The results suggest that exposure to malaria infection may be a significant factor affecting the outcome of praziquantel treatment to reduce the level of hepatosplenic morbidity.
Chemotherapy for blood-dwelling schistosomes kills the worms and exposes parasite antigen to the circulation. In many people from areas of endemicity, this treatment increases parasite-specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) and other Th2 responses in the months following therapy, responses that have been associated with subsequent resistance to reinfection. Here we investigate much earlier changes in immune reactions after praziquantel therapy in Schistosoma mansoni-infected fishermen working in an area of high transmission in Uganda. The subjects gave blood before treatment and at 1 and 21 days posttreatment. Blood cultures were incubated with schistosome soluble worm antigen (SWA) or soluble egg antigen (SEA). Interleukin-4 (IL-4), IL-5, IL-10, IL-13, gamma interferon, and transforming growth factor β levels were measured in the cultures and in plasma. A marked transient increase in plasma IL-5 levels was observed in 75% of the subjects (n = 48) by 1 day posttreatment. This response was dependent on pretreatment intensity of infection and was accompanied by a transient decrease in eosinophil numbers. One day posttreatment, blood cultures from the 16 subjects with the greatest increase in plasma IL-5 level (>100 pg/ml) displayed reduced IL-5, IL-13, and IL-10 responses to SWA, and in contrast to the rest of the cohort, these high-IL-5 subjects displayed reduced levels of SWA-specific IgE in plasma 21 days posttreatment. Twenty months after treatment, the intensity of reinfection was positively correlated with the increase in plasma IL-5 level seen 1 day posttreatment. These studies describe the heterogeneity in early immune reactions to treatment, identifying subgroups who have different patterns of reaction and who may have different capacities to mount the responses that have been associated with resistance to reinfection.
Schistosoma mansoni and Plasmodium falciparum are common infections of school aged children in Kenya. They both cause enlargement of the spleen, but their relative contribution to the condition of splenomegaly remains unknown in areas where both infections are endemic. Here, we have investigated whether relatively high exposure to both infections has a clinically measurable effect on this condition.
96 children aged 6–16 years living along a ten kilometre stretch and within 4 km south of a river that is a source of both S. mansoni and malaria infections were examined clinically for splenomegaly along the mid clavicular line (MCL) and mid axillary line (MAL). The survey was conducted outside the malaria transmission season. The consistency of the organ was recorded as soft, firm or hard. Mapping of the locations of houses and the course of the river was undertaken. Egg counts were mapped at the household level, as were IgG3 responses to Plasmodium falciparum schizont antigen (anti-Pfs IgG3), in order to identify areas with relatively high exposure to both infections, either infection or neither infection. ANOVA was used to test for differences in egg counts, IgG3 levels and the magnitude of spleen enlargement between these areas.
4 contiguous sectors were identified, one where anti-Pfs IgG3 responses and S. mansoni egg counts were both high, one where only anti-Pfs IgG3 responses were high, one where only egg counts were high, and one where both anti-Pfs IgG3 responses and egg counts were low. Spleen MAL and MCL values were significantly higher amongst children from the sector with highest IgG3 levels and highest egg counts but similar amongst children from elsewhere. Both egg counts and anti-Pfs IgG3 responses were significantly higher in children with MAL values >=4 cm. Hardening of spleens was associated with proximity of domicile to the river.
Micro-geographical variation in exposure to S. mansoni and malaria infections can be exploited to investigate the chronic impact of these two infections. These results provide firm evidence that relatively high exposure to both infections exacerbates splenomegaly even outside the malaria transmission season. Major implications include assessing the burden of infection in school age-children.
S. mansoni; malaria; splenomegaly; Kenya; children; GIS
The human host is continuously exposed to the egg and the adult worm developmental stages of Schistosoma mansoni during chronic infections with the parasite. To assess the cytokine responses induced by these different costimulating stages and how they are influenced by host age and infection intensity, whole blood samples from a cross-sectional cohort of 226 members of a Ugandan fishing community who had been resident in an area with high transmission of S. mansoni for the previous 10 years or from birth were stimulated with S. mansoni egg antigen (SEA) or worm antigen (SWA). SWA-specific gamma interferon (IFN-γ) production increased with age, and the levels of SWA- and SEA-specific interleukin 3 (IL-3) were weakly correlated with schistosome infection intensity. The production of most cytokines was little affected by age or infection intensity but was either SEA or SWA specific. One hundred thirty-two members of the cohort coproduced IL-5 and IL-13 specifically in response to SWA, whereas only 15 produced these cytokines, and at much lower levels, in response to SEA. IL-10, IL-4, and IFN-γ were also produced in response to SWA, whereas the response to SEA consisted almost exclusively of IL-10. Our results suggest that, in contrast to what has been described for the murine model of S. mansoni and during acute human infections, chronic intense exposure to and infection with S. mansoni in this cohort resulted in very low levels of response to SEA in vitro in the presence of a vigorous and mixed Th1-Th2 response to SWA.
Schistosoma mansoni infection is a persistent public health problem
in many Kenyan communities. Although praziquantel is available, re-infection
after chemotherapy treatment is inevitable, especially among children.
Chemotherapy followed by intermittent mollusciciding of habitats of
Biomphalaria pfeifferi, the intermediate host snail, may have
longer term benefits, especially if timed to coincide with natural
fluctuations in snail populations.
In this cohort study, the Kambu River (Intervention area) was molluscicided
intermittently for 4 years, after mass chemotherapy with praziquantel
in the adjacent community of Darajani in January 1997. The nearby Thange
River was selected as a control (Non-intervention area), and its adjacent
community of Ulilinzi was treated with praziquantel in December 1996. Snail
numbers were recorded monthly at 9–10 sites along each river, while
rainfall data were collected monthly, and annual parasitological surveys
were undertaken in each village. The mollusciciding protocol was adapted to
local conditions, and simplified to improve prospects for widespread
After the initial reduction in prevalence attributable to chemotherapy, there
was a gradual increase in the prevalence and intensity of infection in the
non-intervention area, and significantly lower levels of re-infection
amongst inhabitants of the intervention area. Incidence ratio between areas
adjusted for age and gender at the first follow-up survey, 5 weeks
after treatment in the non-intervention area and 4 months after
treatment in the intervention area was not significant (few people turned
positive), while during the following 4 annual surveys these ratios were
0.58 (0.39-0.85), 0.33 (0.18-0.60), 0.14 (0.09-0.21) and 0.45 (0.26-0.75),
respectively. Snail numbers were consistently low in the intervention area
as a result of the mollusciciding. Following termination of the
mollusciciding at the end of 2000, snail populations and infections in
snails increased again in the intervention area.
The results of this study demonstrate that in the Kenyan setting a
combination of chemotherapy followed by intermittent mollusciciding can have
longer term benefits than chemotherapy alone.
Bayluscide; Schistosoma mansoni; Re-infection; Biomphalaria pfeifferi; Molluscicide
IgE specific to worm antigen (SWA) and pre-treatment eosinophil number, are associated with human immunity to re-infection with schistosomes after chemotherapeutic treatment. Treatment significantly elevates circulating IL-5 24-hr post-treatment of Schistosoma mansoni. Here we investigate if praziquantel treatment of human schistosomiasis haematobium also boosts circulating IL-5, the immunological and parasitological factors that predispose to this, and the relationship between these and subsequent immunity to post-treatment re-infection.
The relationship between pre-treatment SWA-IgE, eosinophil number and infection intensity and the 24-hr post-treatment IL-5 boost was investigated in a Malian cohort (aged 5–40 yrs), exposed to S. haematobium. Eotaxin levels were measured at 24-hr post-treatment as a proxy of eosinophil migration. The relationship between the 24-hr post-treatment IL-5 boost and later eosinophil numbers and SWA-IgE levels (9-wk post-treatment) was examined, then investigated in the context of subsequent levels of re-infection (2-yr post-treatment). Circulating IL-5 levels increased 24-hr post-treatment and were associated with pre-treatment infection intensity, SWA-IgE levels, eosinophil number, as well as 24-hr post-treatment eotaxin levels. 24-hr IL-5 levels were, in turn, significantly associated with eosinophil number and elevated SWA-IgE 9-wk later. These SWA-IgE levels were significantly associated with immunity to re-infection.
Early IL-5 production after treatment-induced exposure to S. haematobium worm antigen is positively associated with antigen dose (infection intensity), IgE availability for arming of effector cells at time of treatment and subsequent eosinophil migration response (as indicated by eotaxin levels). The IL-5 produced is positively associated with increased downstream eosinophil number and increases in specific IgE levels, implicating this cytokine boost and its down-stream consequences in the production and maintenance of IgE, and subsequent re-infection immunity.
Partial human immunity to infection with trematode worms of the genus Schistosoma is associated with IgE specific to adult worm-derived antigens and eosinophils. Treatment studies of Schistosoma infection allow us to examine the temporal features of the immune response post-antigen exposure, their inter-dependence and their relationship with re-infection levels. Here the boosted levels of the cytokine IL-5, measured at 24-hrs post-treatment of a Malian cohort, aged 5–40 yrs, were found to be significantly associated with pre-treatment levels of IgE to worm-derived antigens and eosinophil number, linking this rapid response to two of the main correlates of human immunity to these parasites. The IL-5 levels at 24-hr were in turn related to increased eosinophil counts and SWA-IgE levels at 9-wks post-treatment. In line with previous studies SWA-IgE was associated with resistance to re-infection. The study therefore identifies temporal relationships between immune mediators prior to and post treatment induced antigen exposure that are associated with resistance to re-infection.
Offspring of women with schistosomiasis may exhibit immune responsiveness to schistosomes due to in utero sensitisation or trans-placental transfer of antibodies. Praziquantel treatment during pregnancy boosts maternal immune responses to schistosome antigens and reduces worm burden. Effects of praziquantel treatment during pregnancy on responses among offspring are unknown.
In a trial of anthelminthic treatment during pregnancy in Uganda (ISRCTN32849447; http://www.controlled-trials.com/ISRCTN32849447/elliott), offspring of women with Schistosoma mansoni were examined for cytokine and antibody responses to schistosome worm (SWA) and egg (SEA) antigen, in cord blood and at age one year. Relationships to maternal responses and pre-treatment infection intensities were examined, and responses were compared between the offspring of women who did, or did not receive praziquantel treatment during pregnancy.
Of 388 S. mansoni-infected women studied, samples were obtained at age one year from 215 of their infants. Stool examination for S. mansoni eggs was negative for all infants. Cord and infant samples were characterised by very low cytokine production in response to schistosome antigens with the exception of cord IL-10 responses, which were substantial. Cord and infant cytokine responses showed no association with maternal responses. As expected, cord blood levels of immunoglobulin (Ig) G to SWA and SEA were high and correlated with maternal antibodies. However, by age one year IgG levels had waned and were hardly detectable. Praziquantel treatment during pregnancy showed no effect on cytokine responses or antibodies levels to SWA or SEA either in cord blood or at age one year, except for IgG1 to SWA, which was elevated in infants of treated mothers, reflecting maternal levels. There was some evidence that maternal infection intensity was positively associated with cord blood IL-5 and IL-13 responses to SWA, and IL-5 responses to SEA, and that this association was modified by treatment with praziquantel.
Despite strong effects on maternal infection intensity and maternal immune responses, praziquantel treatment of infected women during pregnancy had no effect on anti-schistosome immune responses among offspring by age one year. Whether the treatment will impact upon the offspring's responses on exposure to primary schistosome infection remains to be elucidated.
Praziquantel treatment of schistosomiasis during pregnancy was only recommended in 2002; hence the effects of treatment during pregnancy are not fully known. We have therefore evaluated the effects on infection intensity and the immunological effects of praziquantel treatment against Schistosoma mansoni during pregnancy, compared with treatment after delivery.
A nested cohort of 387 Schistosoma mansoni infected women was recruited within a larger trial of de-worming during pregnancy. Women were randomised to receive praziquantel or placebo during pregnancy. All women were treated after delivery. Infection intensity after treatment was assessed by a single Kato-Katz examination of stool samples with duplicate slides and categorised as undetected, light (1–99 eggs per gram (epg)), moderate (100–399 epg) or heavy (≥400 epg). Antibodies against S. mansoni worm and egg antigens were measured by ELISA. Results were compared between women first treated during pregnancy and women first treated after delivery.
At enrolment, 252 (65.1%) of the women had light infection (median (IQR) epg: 35 (11, 59)), 75 (19.3%) moderate (median (IQR) epg: 179(131, 227)) and 60 (15.5%) had heavy infection (median (IQR) epg: 749 (521, 1169)) with S. mansoni. At six weeks after praziquantel treatment during pregnancy S. mansoni infection was not detectable in 81.9% of the women and prevalence and intensity had decreased to 11.8% light, 4.7% moderate and 1.6% heavy a similar reduction when compared with those first treated after delivery (undetected (88.5%), light (10.6%), moderate (0.9%) and heavy (0%), p = 0.16). Parasite specific antibody levels were lower during pregnancy than after delivery. Praziquantel treatment during pregnancy boosted anti-worm IgG isotypes and to a lesser extent IgE, but these boosts were less pronounced than in women whose treatment was delayed until after delivery. Praziquantel had limited effects on antibodies against egg antigens.
S mansoni antigen-specific antibody levels and praziquantel-induced boosts in antibody levels were broadly suppressed during pregnancy, but this was not associated with major reduction in the efficacy of praziquantel. Long-term implications of these findings in relation to resistance to re-infection remain to be explored.
International Standard Randomised Controlled Trial Number for the current study: ISRCTN32849447 http://www.controlled-trials.com/ISRCTN32849447/elliott
Parasite-specific IgE levels correlate with human resistance to reinfection with Schistosoma spp. after chemotherapy. Although the role of eosinophils in schistosomiasis has been the focus of a great deal of important research, the involvement of other Fcε receptor-bearing cells, such as mast cells and basophils, has not been investigated in relation to human immunity to schistosomes. Chemotherapy with praziquantel (PZQ) kills schistosomes living in an in vivo blood environment rich in IgE, eosinophils and basophils. This releases parasite Ags that have the potential to cross-link cell-bound IgE. However, systemic hypersensitivity reactions are not induced by treatment. Here, we describe the effects of schistosomiasis, and its treatment, on human basophil function by following changes in total cellular histamine and in vitro histamine-release induced by schistosome Ags or anti-IgE, in blood samples from infected Ugandan fishermen, who are continuously exposed to S. mansoni infection, before and 1-day and 21-days after PZQ treatment.
There was a significant increase in the total cellular histamine in blood samples at 1-day post-treatment, followed by a very significant further increase by 21-days post-treatment. In vitro histamine-release induced by S. mansoni egg (SEA) or worm (SWA) Ags or anti-IgE antibody, was significantly reduced 1-day post-treatment. The degree of this reduction correlated with pre-treatment infection intensity. Twenty-1-days post-treatment, SEA-induced histamine-release was still significantly lower than at pretreatment. Histamine-release was not correlated to plasma concentrations of total or parasite-specific IgE, nor to specific IgG4 plasma concentrations.
The biology of human blood basophils is modulated by S. mansoni infection and praziquantel treatment. Infection intensity-dependent suppression of basophil histamine-release, histamine-dependent resistance to infection, and similarities with allergen desensitisation are discussed as possible explanations of these observations.