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J Helminthol. 2009 Mar;83(1):13-21. doi: 10.1017/S0022149X08067217. Epub 2008 Oct 10.

Effects of low-protein diet on Schistosoma mansoni morphology visualized by morphometry and confocal laser scanning microscopy.

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Laboratory of Helminthology Romero Lascasas Porto, Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Parasitology, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Biomedical Center, State University of Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


Previous studies have shown that protein deficiencies can hamper both the course of experimental schistosomiasis and normal development of adult worms. To further investigate this relationship, we compared adult male and female Schistosoma mansoni from malnourished and well-fed mice through morphometric and confocal laser scanning microscopy analysis. Swiss mice were fed protein-deficient diets (8%) and infected subcutaneously with approximately 80 S. mansoni cercariae (BH strain, Brazil). Control mice were fed a standard rodent diet (23% protein). The nutritional status was evaluated by body weight gain and albumin values. Mice were sacrificed 63 days post-infection. Recovered worms were stained with hydrochloric carmine and preserved as whole-mounts for bright-field examination and confocal microscopy. The body weight gain and serum albumin concentrations were significantly lower (P < 0.05) in malnourished mice than in controls. In general, all morphometric values of specimens grown in malnourished mice were lower than those of control mice. Schistosome worms grown in malnourished mice had statistically significant differences (P < 0.05) in the reproductive system and tegument than those grown in mice fed standard diets. In female worms, vitelline glands showed few remaining follicles and ovaries lacked mature oocytes. In male parasites, tubercles were fewer in number on the dorsal surface and testicular lobes presented fewer differentiated germinal cells. In summary, we describe novel data supporting the view that low-protein diets may influence the development of adult worms.

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