Schistosoma haematobium is the etiologic agent for urogenital schistosomiasis, a major source of morbidity and mortality for more than 112 million people worldwide. Infection with S. haematobium results in a variety of immunopathologic sequelae caused by parasite oviposition within the urinary tract, which drives inflammation, hematuria, fibrosis, bladder dysfunction, and increased susceptibility to urothelial carcinoma. While humans readily develop urogenital schistosomiasis, the lack of an experimentally-tractable model has greatly impaired our understanding of the mechanisms that underlie this important disease. We have developed an improved mouse model of S. haematobium urinary tract infection that recapitulates several aspects of human urogenital schistosomiasis. Following microinjection of purified S. haematobium eggs into the bladder wall, mice consistently develop macrophage-rich granulomata that persist for at least 3 months and pass eggs in their urine. Importantly, egg-injected mice also develop urinary tract fibrosis, bladder dysfunction, and various urothelial changes morphologically reminiscent of human urogenital schistosomiasis. As expected, S. haematobium egg-induced immune responses in the immediate microenvironment, draining lymph nodes, and systemic circulation are associated with a Type 2-dominant inflammatory response, characterized by high levels of interleukin-4, eosinophils, and IgE. Taken together, our novel mouse model may help facilitate a better understanding of the unique pathophysiological mechanisms of epithelial dysfunction, tissue fibrosis, and oncogenesis associated with urogenital schistosomiasis.
Urogenital schistosomiasis (infection with parasitic Schistosoma haematobium worms, the most common human-specific Schistosoma species globally) affects over 112 million people worldwide. S. haematobium worms primarily lay eggs in the bladder, upper urinary and genital tracts, and the host immune response to these eggs is considered to cause almost all associated disease in these organs. Resulting conditions include hematuria (bloody urine), urinary frequency, fibrosis (internal scarring) of the urinary tract, increased risk of bladder cancer, and enhanced susceptibility to contracting HIV. Approximately 150,000 people die annually from S. haematobium-induced obstructive kidney failure alone, making this species one of the deadliest worms worldwide. Despite the importance of S. haematobium, a lack of an experimentally manipulable model has contributed to the paucity of research focusing on this parasite. We have circumvented the barriers to natural S. haematobium oviposition in the mouse bladder by directly microinjecting parasite eggs into the bladder wall. This triggers inflammation, hematuria, urinary frequency, fibrosis, egg shedding, and epithelial changes that are similar to that seen in clinical S. haematobium infections. Our model may provide new opportunities to better understand the basic molecular and cellular immunology of urogenital schistosomiasis and thereby contribute to the development of new diagnostics and therapeutics.