Schistosomes, parasitic flatworms that cause the tropical disease schistosomiasis, are still a threat. They are responsible for 200 million infections worldwide and an estimated 280,000 deaths annually in sub-Saharan Africa alone. The adult parasites reside as pairs in the mesenteric or perivesicular veins of their human host, where they can survive for up to 30 years. The parasite is a potential activator of blood coagulation according to Virchow's triad, because it is expected to alter blood flow and endothelial function, leading to hypercoagulability. In contrast, hepatosplenic schistosomiasis patients are in a hypocoagulable and hyperfibrinolytic state, indicating that schistosomes interfere with the haemostatic system of their host. In this review, the interactions of schistosomes with primary haemostasis, secondary haemostasis, fibrinolysis, and the vascular tone will be discussed to provide insight into the reduction in coagulation observed in schistosomiasis patients. Interference with the haemostatic system by pathogens is a common mechanism and has been described for other parasitic worms, bacteria, and fungi as a mechanism to support survival and spread or enhance virulence. Insight into the mechanisms used by schistosomes to interfere with the haemostatic system will provide important insight into the maintenance of the parasitic life cycle within the host. This knowledge may reveal new potential anti-schistosome drug and vaccine targets. In addition, some of the survival mechanisms employed by schistosomes might be used by other pathogens, and therefore, these mechanisms that interfere with host haemostasis might be a broad target for drug development against blood-dwelling pathogens. Also, schistosome antithrombotic or thrombolytic molecules could form potential new drugs in the treatment of haemostatic disorders.
|Journal||PLoS Pathogens (print)|
|Publication status||Published - 2013|