Open Access Research article

Immuno-epidemiology of human Schistosoma haematobium infection: preferential IgG3 antibody responsiveness to a recombinant antigen dependent on age and parasite burden

Francisca Mutapi1*, Takafira Mduluza2, Natalia Gomez-Escobar14, William F Gregory1, Cecilia Fernandez15, Nicholas Midzi3 and Rick M Maizels1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Immunology & Infection Research, School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Ashworth Laboratories, King's Buildings, West Mains Rd, Edinburgh, EH9 3J, UK

2 Department of Biochemistry, University of Zimbabwe, P.O. Box 167, Mount Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe

3 National Institute of Health Research, Box CY 570, Causeway, Harare, Zimbabwe

4 Medical Research Council, PO Box 273, Banjul, Gambia

5 Cátedra de Inmunología, Facultad de Química, Universidad de la República, Casilla de Correo 1157, Montevideo, Uruguay

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Infectious Diseases 2006, 6:96  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-6-96

Published: 9 June 2006



Schistosomiasis is a major parasitic disease affecting over 200 million people in the developing world with a further 400 million people at risk of infection. The aim of this study was to identify a single antigen from adult Schistosoma haematobium worms and subsequently use this antigen to study the development of schistosome-acquired immunity in a human population.


The full-length cDNA sequence of a S. haematobium protein, a putative orthologue of the S. mansoni tegumental antigen Sm13, was obtained from a cDNA library of adult S. haematobium worms and named Sh13 following a small-scale expressed sequence tags (EST) project. The recombinant Sh13 protein expressed in E. coli, was used to investigate immuno-epidemiological patterns in 147 Zimbabweans (7–18 years old) exposed to S. haematobium.


Sequence analysis of the full-length cDNA sequence of the S. haematobium protein Sh13, indicated that the protein has an N-terminal signal peptide and encodes an 85-amino acid mature protein with a highly conserved predicted transmembrane domain (86 % identity with the S. mansoni tegumental antigen Sm13). The recombinant Sh13 protein was used in ELISA assays to determine the reactivity of sera from the study participants. Antibody responses against Sh13 were predominantly IgG3 isotype compared to responses against crude worm antigens which were predominantly IgG1 and IgG4. The relationship between anti-Sh13 IgG3 levels and infection intensity varied significantly with host age. The youngest children (7–10 years old) had relatively low levels of both infection and anti-Sh13 IgG3. In older children (11–12 years old) rising infection levels were accompanied by a significant increase in anti-Sh13 IgG3 levels. Subsequently, infection intensity declined significantly in 13–18 year olds but levels of the antibody continued to rise. The changing relationship between infection intensity and anti-Sh13 IgG3 levels with host age is consistent with the profile of a protective immune response predicted from theoretical work.


We have identified and characterised a novel S. haematobium antigen Sh13, a putative tegumental protein, and shown that it is recognised predominantly by IgG3 antibodies from people infected with/exposed to S. haematobium parasites. We have also shown that, the anti-Sh13 IgG3 response is maximal in older individuals with the lowest infection intensity, and that the age profile of the relationship between anti-Sh13 IgG3 and infection intensity is consistent with that predicted by theoretical work for a protective response stimulated by and directed against adult worms.