Immunity to schistosomes: progress toward vaccine

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Science  20 Nov 1987:
Vol. 238, Issue 4830, pp. 1065-1072
DOI: 10.1126/science.3317823


Among the major parasitic infections, schistosomiasis may be the most promising candidate for human vaccination. Information about mechanisms of immunity, gained mainly from experimental models but likely to be relevant to human infection, indicates a dynamic balance between protective and regulatory (blocking) mechanisms. Besides cell-mediated responses leading to macrophage activation, antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity systems involving precise antibody isotypes and nonlymphoid cells (mononuclear phagocytes, eosinophils, and platelets) appear to be essential effectors of immune attack. The slow development of immunity in humans seems related to the production of antibodies that cross-react with schistosomulum surface antigen and block the binding of antibodies of the effector isotype. Schistosomes that survive in the bloodstream and produce chronic infections may evade the immune system as a result of intrinsic changes in membrane susceptibility and of transient expression of target antigens; at other stages of the parasite life cycle, cross-reactive molecules may be secreted that play an essential role in the induction of immunity. Several schistosome proteins have been characterized as candidates for vaccination. Among these, an antigen of 28 kilodaltons has been cloned and shown to be immunogenic in humans and protective in mice, rats, and baboons.