Indexed on: 02 Apr '13Published on: 02 Apr '13Published in: Experimental Parasitology
Parasitic castration in the snail-trematode relationship can be understood as any change in the reproductive function of the snail that is due to interference by the developing larvae inside the snail that leads to the reduction or complete disruption of egg-laying activity. This study was designed to observe the parasitic castration of Biomphalaria glabrata infected with Schistosoma mansoni during both the pre-patent and patent periods. The effect of infection on snail fecundity and fertility, growth rate and survival was studied during the 62 days following miracidia exposure. An integrated approach was employed that used biochemical and histological tools over the same period. To study the effect of infection on reproduction, we individually exposed 30 snails to 5 miracidia each and tracked their fertility and fecundity. For our histopathological studies, 50 snails were exposed to 20 miracidia each, and for our histochemical studies, 50 snails were exposed to 5 miracidia each. An equal number of uninfected snails were used as a control for each group. The B. glabrata exposed to the BH strain of S. mansoni showed 50% positivity for cercarial shedding. Both the experimental and control groups showed 100% survival. The pre-patent period lasted until 39 days after exposure to miracidia. Exposed snails that showed cercarial shedding exhibited higher growth rates than either exposed snails that did not demonstrate cercarial shedding or uninfected controls. Exposed snails without cercarial shedding and uninfected controls showed no differences in the reproductive parameters evaluated during the patent period; snails experiencing cercarial shedding showed a reduction in fecundity and fertility. These snails began to lay eggs only after the 50th day post miracidia exposure. The haemolymph glucose levels showed an oscillating pattern that decreased during periods of greater mobilisation of energy by the larvae and was accompanied by a depletion of glycogen in the cephalopodal mass and digestive gland. Histopathological examination at 55 days showed that the ovotestis was highly atrophied. There was almost complete disappearance of germ cells, and the supporting stroma formed a nearly empty net. At day 45, the infected digestive gland showed a high cylindrical epithelium with little preserved cytoplasm. The contents of the secretory granules of the albumen gland of infected animals stained with Alcian blue (AB), pH 1.0, indicating the presence of sulphated carbohydrates. Thus, parasitic castration in the B. glabrata-S. mansoni model may be regulated directly and indirectly by the developmental stage of the trematode and the biochemical and histopathological alterations during the patent period of infection.