ORIGINAL PAPER

Parasitology Research

, Volume 84, Issue 10, pp 787-795

First online:

Invasion of the vertebrate skin by cercariae of Trichobilharzia ocellata : penetration processes and stimulating host signals

  • Wilfried HaasAffiliated withInstitut für Zoologie I, Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Staudtstrasse 5, D-91058 Erlangen, Germany e-mail: whaas@biologie.uni-erlangen.de, Tel.: +49-9131-85-8064, Fax: +49-9131-85-8040
  • , Adrianus van de RoemerAffiliated withInstitut für Zoologie I, Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Staudtstrasse 5, D-91058 Erlangen, Germany e-mail: whaas@biologie.uni-erlangen.de, Tel.: +49-9131-85-8064, Fax: +49-9131-85-8040

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Abstract

The penetration of Trichobilharzia ocellata cercariae into the skin of their duck hosts was described using electron microscopy and histology. The behavior patterns of the cercariae on their exposure to human skin differed only little from those known for Schistosoma mansoni cercariae. After their attachment to living human skin the cercariae crept to wrinkles within a mean of 8 s, and full penetration was achieved within a mean of 4.0 min (83 s to 13.3 min). Tail shedding occurred as early as within a mean of 6.5 s of the first penetration attempts. It was supported by a muscular sphincter at the cercarial hindbody. The skin-surface stimuli for cercarial penetration were contained in the lipid fraction of the duck and human skin surface; hydrophilic components were effective only in some T. ocellata isolates. The penetration-stimulating components of duck-skin lipids were exclusively free fatty acids with the same chemical characteristics known to stimulate penetration of Schistosoma species. Skin-surface lipids of the abnormal human host, with their higher fatty acid contents, stimulated higher cercarial penetration rates than did skin lipids of the natural duck host. Fatty acids as penetration stimuli may offer advantages for T. ocellata cercariae by increasing the specificity for an invasion of terrestrial vertebrates, which is additionally determined by cholesterol and ceramides as signals for attachment and enduring contact behavior.