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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The inhibitory effect against collagen-induced arthritis by Schistosoma japonicum infection is infection stage-dependent

YunKun He1, Jia Li1, WenJia Zhuang1, Lan Yin1, ChunXia Chen1, Jun Li2, FengLi Chi1, YanShuang Bai1 and Xiao-Ping Chen1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Immunology, Tongji University School of Medicine, 1239 Siping Road, Shanghai 200092, China

2 Department of Pathogen Biology, Tongji University School of Medicine, 1239 Siping Road, Shanghai 200092, China

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BMC Immunology 2010, 11:28  doi:10.1186/1471-2172-11-28

Published: 10 June 2010



A long-term existing schistosome infection can aid in maintaining immuno-homeostasis, thus providing protection against various types of autoimmune diseases to the infected host. Such benefits have often been associated with acute or egg stage infection and with the egg-induced Th2 response. However, since schistosome infection undergoes different stages, each associated with a specific induction of Th responses, the requirements for the ability of the different stages of schistosome infection to protect against autoimmune disease has not been elucidated. The present study was designed to study whether different stages of schistosome infection offer unique protection in collagen-induced arthritis and its mechanisms.


Arthritis susceptible strain DBA/1 male mice were infected with Schistosoma japonicum for either 2 weeks resulting in early stage infection or for 7 weeks resulting in acute or egg stage infection. Following Schistosoma japonicum infection, collagen II was administered to induce collagen-induced arthritis, an animal model for human rheumatoid arthritis. Infection by Schistosoma japonicum significantly reduced the severity and the incidence of experimental autoimmune collagen-induced arthritis. However, this beneficial effect can only be provided by a pre-established acute stage of infection but not by a pre-established early stage of the infection. The protection against collagen-induced arthritis correlated with reduced levels of anti-collagen II IgG, especially the subclass of IgG2a. Moreover, in protected mice increased levels of IL-4 were present at the time of collagen II injection together with sustained higher IL-4 levels during the course of arthritis development. In contrast, in unprotected mice minimal levels of IL-4 were present at the initial stage of collagen II challenge together with lack of IL-4 induction following Schistosoma japonicum infection.


The protective effect against collagen-induced arthritis provided by Schistosoma japonicum infection is infection stage-dependent. Furthermore, the ability of schistosomiasis to negatively regulate the onset of collagen-induced arthritis is associated with a dominant as well as long-lasting Th2 response at the initiation and development of autoimmune joint and systemic inflammation.