Parasite regulation by host hormones: an old mechanism of host exploitation?

Trends Parasitol. 2005 Dec;21(12):588-93. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2005 Oct 19.


Recent experimental evidence suggests that parasites can not only evade immune responses actively but also exploit the hormonal microenvironment within the host to favor their establishment, growth and reproduction. The benefit for parasites of hormonal exploitation is so great that they have evolved structures similar to the steroid and protein hormone receptors expressed in upper vertebrates that can bind to the hormonal metabolites synthesized by the host. This strategy is exemplified by two parasites that respond to adrenal steroids and sexual steroids, respectively: Schistosoma mansoni and Taenia crassiceps. Understanding how the host endocrine system can, under certain circumstances, favor the establishment of a parasite, and characterizing the parasite hormone receptors that are involved might aid the design of hormonal analogs and drugs that affect the parasite exclusively.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / metabolism
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / pharmacology*
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism
  • Hydrocortisone / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Parasites / drug effects*
  • Parasites / growth & development
  • Parasites / pathogenicity*
  • Parasites / physiology
  • Schistosoma mansoni / drug effects
  • Schistosoma mansoni / growth & development
  • Schistosoma mansoni / physiology
  • Schistosomiasis mansoni / immunology
  • Schistosomiasis mansoni / parasitology
  • Taenia / drug effects
  • Taenia / growth & development
  • Taenia / physiology
  • Taeniasis / immunology
  • Taeniasis / parasitology


  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Hydrocortisone