Schistosomes, a genus of trematodes, currently infect several hundred million people globally. The World Health Organization estimates that hundreds of thousands of people die of schistosomiasis each year and about a billion people are at risk of exposure. Schistosomes also infect livestock and cause serious economic hardship in many third world nations. The disease is characterized by the presence of adult worms, or blood flukes, within the host’s vascular system. These worms, living as male-female pairs, can survive for many years during which time the female produces hundreds of eggs per day. The primary damage caused by schistosome infection arises from the host’s immune response to parasite eggs within host tissues. For more information on schistosomiasis, please see the CDC Schistosomiasis page.
The Molecular Helminthology Laboratory principally studies the host-parasite interface with the goal of better understanding how these remarkable worms can thrive within immune-competent mammalian hosts for years, even decades. It is anticipated that this knowledge will contribute to new ways to prevent and treat blood fluke diseases.