Developmental plasticity in schistosomes and other helminths

Int J Parasitol. 2003 Sep 30;33(11):1277-84. doi: 10.1016/s0020-7519(03)00161-9.


Developmental plasticity in helminth life cycles serves, in most cases, to increase the probability of transmission between hosts, suggesting that the necessity to achieve transmission is a prominent selective pressure in the evolution of this phenomenon. Some evidence suggests that digenean trematodes from the genus Schistosoma are also capable of limited developmental responses to host factors. Here we review the currently available data on this phenomenon and attempt to draw comparisons with similar processes in the life cycles of other helminths. At present the biological significance of developmental responses by schistosomes under laboratory conditions remains unclear. Further work is needed to determine whether developmental plasticity plays any role in increasing the probability of schistosome transmission and life cycle propagation under adverse conditions, as it does in other helminth life cycles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Helminths / physiology
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Larva
  • Life Cycle Stages
  • Schistosoma / physiology*
  • Schistosomiasis / transmission*