Schistosoma mansoni: Assessment of effects of oleic acid, cercarial age and water temperature on parasite-host attraction

Vivien S.T. Lee, Jefferey L. Burgess, Charles R. Sterling, Eric A. Lutz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Although the lifecycle of Schistosoma spp. and pathophysiology of schistosomiasis have been established, the mechanism by which cercariae find their host is not well understood. Speculatively, host infection by random and accidental host contact is not as biologically plausible as a biochemical mechanism of mammalian attraction. A few studies have indicated that biochemical cues and temperature gradients may play a role in host identification, attraction and attachment triggers. This study aimed to elucidate these mechanisms more specifically through evaluation of biochemical, age and temperature influences leading to Schistosoma mansoni cercariae attraction and attachment behaviors. Oleic acid, a common unsaturated free fatty acid in the outer layer of human skin, was tested for cercariae attraction across biologically relevant concentrations. Influence of media type (beeswax, nail varnish and agar), age-dependent behavior variability and environmentally appropriate temperatures (22 and 30. °C) were also evaluated. Results indicated that oleic acid at concentrations of 0.3, 0.9 and 1.8. g/mL in beeswax significantly increased median attachment to media (median attachment of 7.50%, 4.20% and 3.71%, respectively, P<. 0.001), compared with plain beeswax, with maximal attachment of 30.30% at 0.3. g/mL of oleic acid. In media containing 0.3. g/mL of oleic acid, cercarial attachment was highest for freshly emerged cercariae to 5. h post-emergence, with a significant decrease in attachment behavior at 10. h post-emergence (P<0.01). Aquatic temperature at which cercariae were exposed to media did not yield significant results (P value >0.05). Biochemical, age and environmental factors influencing cercarial host attraction and attachment behavior have been elucidated by this study. This information will inform further development of devices for environmental surveillance and potentially improve cercarial exposure prevention strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)837-842
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal for Parasitology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Sep 2013


  • Age-dependent
  • Attraction properties
  • Cercariae
  • Host-detection
  • Oleic acid
  • Schistosoma mansoni
  • Temperature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases


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