Schistosomiasis is a major public health problem in many tropical countries worldwide. After malaria, it is the most important parasitic disease of man. The World Health Organization estimates that schistosomiasis afflicts approximately 200-300 million people globally, with more than 500 million at risk of infection annually. In many countries, schistosomiasis ranks near the top in causes of morbidity associated with infectious disease. In addition to the substantial health burdens associated with the disease, especially in children and young adults, schistosomiasis places a severe strain on primary health care facilities and limits the overall economic development of the region. Clearly, further research efforts are essential for reducing the impact of this helminth infection as a public health menace.
For 40 years, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has supported a schistosomiasis research reagent resource (SR3) facility through which investigators can obtain schistosome life stages for research or teaching purposes, free of charge. The SR3 is housed at the Biomedical Research Institute under a NIAID contract entitled “Maintenance, Development and Production of Schistosomiasis Parasites, Reagents, and Assays”. Through this contract, the three major schistosome species affecting humans (Schistosoma mansoni, S. haematobium, and S. japonicum) can be obtained either in their specific snail host or in infected mammals. In addition, the SR3 is responsible for developing molecular reagents for schistosomiasis research that are made available to the research community. This service offers nucleic acids and other reagents derived from snails and parasites.
This supply contract has been a major factor in the development of schistosomiasis research programs in numerous institutions. It has made the schistosome species available to biochemists, immunologists and others who cannot reasonably maintain these life cycles because of a lack of space, time, funding or requisite expertise. In addition to fostering the development of schistosomiasis research, this resource serves as a backup facility for those investigators who have had problems with their own established life cycles. Personnel associated with this project are also available to provide training and technical assistance to other laboratories on snail cultivation, parasite collection and host infection. The contract also allows us to provide training courses. Currently, we host a semi-annual, three-day training course that focuses on maintenance of all threeSchistosoma spp. life cycles.
BRI has teamed with BEI Resources (Manassas, VA., USA) to offer live schistosome stages, schistosomes, intermediate hosts and molecular reagents and other reagents for schistosomiasis research. BEI Resources is now the web-based storefront for ordering these life cycle stages and reagents. Distribution of schistosome parasites and their intermediate hosts will continue from the Biomedical Research Institute. Molecular reagents will be distributed directly from BEI Resources. Available life cycle stages and molecular reagents in the schistosome resource catalog can be viewed by public users through the BEI Resources online web catalog (www.beiresources.org). Researchers interested in obtaining these materials will need to register with BEI Resources and place orders through BEI. Below are listed the life stages and current molecular reagents that are freely available to investigators.
Schistosomiasis Training Courses Offered at BRI
BRI offers a periodic training course that focuses on maintenance of Schistosoma spp. life cycles. Originally focusing on S. mansoni only, the course has recently expanded to incorporate aspects of all three Schistosoma spp. life cycles. It is our hope that incorporating the other two life cycles will encourage interest in maintaining these species in attendees’ laboratories. The course is designed to acquaint investigators working in the field of schistosomiasis with basic techniques and strategies for maintaining these parasites in the laboratory. Among the topics covered are procedures for setting up and maintaining complete life cycles in the research laboratory, general disease aspects (epidemiology, treatment, control, etc.), disease pathology, collection of adult worms and eggs from tissues, exposure of snails to miracidia, shedding snails, exposure of mice and hamsters to cercariae, and an examination of all the intramolluscan life stages. The three-day course also includes a lecture on NIH-NIAID parasitology and grant programs.
We anticipate that attendees will come away with a greater appreciation of the basic biology ofSchistosoma spp. parasites, greater confidence in maintaining life cycles, and they will learn strategies for optimizing life cycles in their home laboratories. Time will be available to ask questions about life cycle maintenance and other aspects of schistosomiasis research.
The Spring 2014 course is tentatively scheduled for May 21-23. This is great learning opportunity for researchers of all levels who work with schistosomes and related parasites. Anyone interested in attending this course can contact Dr. Matt Tucker (firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-881-3300 x31) or Mitzi Sereno (email@example.com or 301-881-3300 x39). There is no fee associated with the course.
BRI is offering a new molecular schistosomiasis workshop for April 2014. This training course is designed to acquaint investigators working in the field of schistosomiasis with current molecular techniques used in schistosomiasis research and it offers directions into making one’s research more productive.
The course will focus on basic molecular techniques, concentrating on transfection techniques most useful for a schistosomiasis research laboratory. This course will consist of wet-lab sessions on plasmid DNA transfection of S. mansoni life stages. Discussions will be held for expanding techniques to other schistosome-related projects as well. Hands-on exercises relating to some of these topics will also be presented (transforming cercariae to schistosomules, siRNA synthesis and labeling, RNA extraction, and real-time PCR).
The four-day course will also include lectures from experts in the field of schistosome transfection. Invited speakers include Drs. Paul Brindley and Gabriel Rinaldi from George Washington University (Washington, D.C.) and Dr. Patrick Skelly from Tufts University (North Grafton, MA.). In addition, the course will include lectures on NIH-NIAID parasitology and grant programs (Dr. Glen McGugan) and parasite reagents offered through BEI Resources (Dr. Robert Molestina).
The course is scheduled for April 7-10. This is a great learning opportunity for researchers of all levels who work in the molecular biology of schistosomes and snails. Anyone interested in attending this course can contact Dr. Matt Tucker (firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-881-3300 x31) or Mitzi Sereno (email@example.com or 301-881-3300 x39). This course is free to students and financial support for travel and lodging may be available.