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Afaf El-Ansary, Soad Al-Daihan
Med Sci Monit 2006; 12(12): RA282-292
The Biomphalaria species are freshwater snails which have a wide distribution and are significant both medically and economically as intermediate hosts for the schistosome parasite, a digenetic trematode causing schistosomiasis, a disease that infects 200 million people, and domestic animals throughout the tropics. The host-parasite relationship is, in principle, a powerful determinant of the biology of infection and disease. Research on snail-schistosome interactions has the potential for making an important contribution to the study of co-evolution or reciprocal adaptation. The association between Biomphalaria and Schistosoma mansoni could well be an excellent model for studies aimed at elucidating some aspects of the compatibility or resistance of this species to schistosomes. Snail hosts and schistosomes appear to have effects on each other's phenotype and genotype. The objective of this review is to clarify the nature of the relationship between schistosome parasites and their freshwater snail hosts. Aspects of snail-schistosome interactions will be traced in relation to behavioral (growth, reproduction, locomotion), immunological, and biochemical changes induced in the host's tissues by the developing intramolluscan stages of the parasite. This may help to identify biochemical or genetic targets for drug design. Manipulation of the intermediate host through these targets could break the cycle of human and snail infection by schistosomes.