Approximately ten percent of the world's population is at risk of schistosomiasis, a neglected, tropical disease caused by species of the helminth Schistosoma. For the past 40 years, control of schistosomiasis has depended on the widespread use of a single drug, praziquantel. Despite its good therapeutic and safety profile, praziquantel acts only on adult worms and does not prevent re-infection. Hence, there is a pressing need for new anti-schistosomal drugs or vaccines that would target the entire range of intra-human schistosomal lifecycle stages and prevent re-infection.
Schistosoma are excellent evaders of human immunity, as demonstrated by their survival in human blood for up to a decade. How they protect themselves against the constant attack by the human immune system, however, is largely unclear. Our research line, initiated October 2019, focuses on the interactions between the human complement system and S. mansoni. The research is undertaken under supervision of prof. dr. Jennifer Keiser (Swiss TPH, HDDU) and in collaboration with the complement lab of prof. dr. Daniel Ricklin (Pharmazentrum, University of Basel). The aim of the project is to eluciate the mechanisms behind the schistosomal resistance against complement. The findings will be of significant relevance as they will not only shed light on the interplay between the human immune system and schistosome infections, but will also aid to identify and design novel treatment options for schistosomiasis.