Parasite infection has sting in the tail

(Medical Xpress) -- Infections from certain parasites can compromise the immune system, leaving it less able to fight other diseases.

Research into the snail fever could help scientists better understand why, in areas where the infection is endemic, vaccines for other conditions may not be fully effective.

It could also impact on development of vaccines for snail fever, which is caused by a contracted from water and affects millions of people, especially children, in developing countries.

In the first study of its kind, scientists from the University of Edinburgh examined the immune systems of people in parts of rural Zimbabwe that are endemic for snail fever.

People who had developed to snail fever over years of exposure to the disease were compared with people from the same area who remained infected by the parasites.

They found that in infected people, overall immunity was compromised, with reduced levels of a cell type that helps the body remember infections after first being exposed to them, and prevent repeat episodes of disease.

Lower levels of these cells in the blood could make affected individuals less capable of fighting other infections, such as HIV and malaria.

The finding may also help explain why people exposed to repeat infection with snail fever are slow to develop against it.

Scientists say cell levels in people affected by snail fever may be reduced because the immune system is suppressed as a way to avoid exacerbating disease.

This may be driven by the immune system itself, or by the parasite.

The joint study with partners in France and Zimbabwe, published in Scientific Reports, was backed by the Wellcome Trust, and Thrasher Research Funds.

"This is valuable insight into a disease that affects millions, revealing its impact on long-term ," said Dr Francisca Mutapi, School of Biological Sciences.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Parasite infects poor women's reproductive organs

Oct 28, 2010

Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Copenhagen shows that the parasitic disease, commonly known as snail fever, or schistosomiasis, almost eats its way into women's reproductive organs. Today researchers from all ...

Malaria immunity in the spotlight

Feb 23, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- Mothers who are treated for malaria may pass on lower levels of natural immunity to their young, animal studies show.

Recommended for you

How Staph infections elude the immune system

Oct 27, 2014

A potentially lethal bacterium protects itself by causing immune tunnel vision, according to a study from scientists at The University of Chicago published in The Journal of Experimental Medicine. By tri ...

Research reveals how lymph nodes expand during disease

Oct 22, 2014

Cancer Research UK and UCL scientists have discovered that the same specialised immune cells that patrol the body and spot infections also trigger the expansion of immune organs called lymph nodes, according to a study published ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.