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Priming of the immune response by schistosome eggs


Correspondence: Edward J. Pearce, Department of Pathobiology, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, 216A Rosenthal Building, 3800 Spruce St., Philadelphia, PA 19104-6076, USA (e-mail:


Schistosomiasis mansoni is a chronic disease caused by infection with helminths of the genus Schistosoma mansoni. Adult schistosomes live intravascularly, and for transmission of this infection it is necessary for parasite eggs to traverse the endothelium, and migrate to the intestinal lumen, from where they can exit the body to continue the lifecycle. This process is dependent on an intact host CD4 T helper (Th) cell response to egg antigens. Perhaps because of this, eggs have evolved to be highly immunogenic and capable of inducing potent Th responses. The egg-induced Th response is unusual in that it is highly Th2-polarized. The selective pressure on the host to mount a Th2 response against eggs is apparent in the fact that Th2 response-defective mice develop acutely lethal disease when infected with schistosomes. In this review I will focus on the underlying basis for the Th2 bias in the immune response to egg antigens.