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Open Access Research article

Comparison of worm development and host immune responses in natural hosts of schistosoma japonicum, yellow cattle and water buffalo

Jianmei Yang, Zhiqiang Fu, Xingang Feng, Yaojun Shi, Chunxiu Yuan, Jinming Liu, Yang Hong, Hao Li, Ke Lu and Jiaojiao Lin*

Author Affiliations

Shanghai Veterinary Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Key Laboratory of Animal Parasitology, Ministry of Agriculture of China, Shanghai, People's Republic of China

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BMC Veterinary Research 2012, 8:25  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-8-25

Published: 13 March 2012



Yellow cattle and water buffalo are two of the most important natural hosts for Schistosoma japonicum in China. Previous observation has revealed that yellow cattle are more suited to the development of S. japonicum than water buffalo. Understanding more about the molecular mechanisms involved in worm development, as well as the pathological and immunological differences between yellow cattle and water buffalo post infection with S japonicum will provide useful information for the vaccine design and its delivery procedure.


The worm length (p < 0.01), worm recovery rate (p < 0.01) and the percentage of paired worms (p < 0.01) were significantly greater in yellow cattle than those in water buffalo. There were many white egg granulomas in the livers of yellow cattle, but fewer were observed in water buffalo at 7 weeks post infection. The livers of infected yellow cattle contained significantly increased accumulation of inflammatory cells, and the schistosome eggs were surrounded with large amounts of eosinophil infiltration. In contrast, no hepatocyte swelling or lymphocyte infiltration, and fewer white blood cells, was observed in water buffalo. The percentage of CD4+ T cells was higher in yellow cattle, while the percentage of CD8+ T cells was higher in water buffalo from pre-infection to 7 w post infection. The CD4/CD8 ratios were decreased in both species after challenge with schistosomes. Comparing with water buffalo, the IFN-γ level was higher and decreased significantly, while the IL-4 level was lower and increased gradually in yellow cattle from pre-infection to 7 w post infection.


In this study, we confirmed that yellow cattle were more suited to the development of S. japonicum than water buffalo, and more serious pathological damage was observed in infected yellow cattle. Immunological analysis suggested that CD4+ T cells might be an integral component of the immune response and might associate with worm development in yellow cattle. A shift from Th1 to Th2 type polarized immunity was only shown clearly in schistosome-infected yellow cattle, but no shift in water buffalo. The results provide valuable information for increased understanding of host-schistosome interactions, and for control of schistosomiasis.