Eicosanoids in parasites and parasitic infections

Adv Parasitol. 2000;46:181-240. doi: 10.1016/s0065-308x(00)46009-4.


Eicosanoids are lipid mediators with multiple functions in vertebrate tissues and invertebrate organisms. In this review the roles of eicosanoids--mostly prostaglandins (PGs), thromboxanes and leukotrienes--in parasite physiology and host-parasite interactions are discussed. PGs are present in the saliva of blood-sucking arthropods facilitating feeding by increasing local blood flow and prolonged attachment of ticks by immune suppression. Release of various eicosanoids has also been demonstrated for a number of protozoan and metazoan endoparasites. These substances appear to play a role in penetration, immune suppression, inflammation or modulation of haemostasis, enabling parasite invasion and establishment. Moreover, endogenous eicosanoids serve various functions in parasite metabolism and physiology. In many parasitic infections eicosanoids are involved in host pathology, e.g. granuloma formation, coagulopathy, secretory diarrhoea, or fever. Immune suppression by induction of PG release, in particular PGE2, by host defence cells appears to be a common feature of many parasitic infections and is though to be important for parasite establishment. Contradictory results have been obtained for gastrointestinal nematode infections, which probably reflect the considerable differences between the various models employed. Although most of the available studies indicate an important role for eicosanoids in parasites and parasitic infections, our current knowledge is still fragmentary and more data are urgently needed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Eicosanoids / chemistry
  • Eicosanoids / metabolism*
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Parasites / metabolism*
  • Parasitic Diseases / metabolism*
  • Parasitic Diseases / parasitology
  • Parasitic Diseases / pathology


  • Eicosanoids