Parasite immunology

Schistosome infection aggravates HCV-related liver disease and induces changes in the regulatory T-cell phenotype.

PMID 25559085


Schistosome infections are renowned for their ability to induce regulatory networks such as regulatory T cells (Treg) that control immune responses against homologous and heterologous antigens such as allergies. However, in the case of co-infections with hepatitis C virus (HCV), schistosomes accentuate disease progression and we hypothesized that expanding schistosome-induced Treg populations change their phenotype and could thereby suppress beneficial anti-HCV responses. We therefore analysed effector T cells and n/iTreg subsets applying the markers Granzyme B (GrzB) and Helios in Egyptian cohorts of HCV mono-infected (HCV), schistosome-co-infected (Sm/HCV) and infection-free individuals. Interestingly, viral load and liver transaminases were significantly elevated in Sm/HCV individuals when compared to HCV patients. Moreover, overall Treg frequencies and Helios(pos) Treg were not elevated in Sm/HCV individuals, but frequencies of GrzB(+) Treg were significantly increased. Simultaneously, GrzB(+) CD8(+) T cells were not suppressed in co-infected individuals. This study demonstrates that in Sm/HCV co-infected cohorts, liver disease is aggravated with enhanced virus replication and Treg do not expand but rather change their phenotype with GrzB possibly being a more reliable marker than Helios for iTreg. Therefore, curing concurrent schistosome disease could be an important prerequisite for successful HCV treatment as co-infected individuals respond poorly to interferon therapy.