Pyrimidine metabolism in schistosomes: A comparison with other parasites and the search for potential chemotherapeutic targets

Academic Article


  • Schistosomes are responsible for the parasitic disease schistosomiasis, an acute and chronic parasitic ailment that affects > 240 million people in 70 countries worldwide. It is the second most devastating parasitic disease after malaria. At least 200,000 deaths per year are associated with the disease. In the absence of the availability of vaccines, chemotherapy is the main stay for combating schistosomiasis. The antischistosomal arsenal is currently limited to a single drug, Praziquantel, which is quite effective with a single-day treatment and virtually no host-toxicity. Recently, however, the question of reduced activity of Praziquantel has been raised. Therefore, the search for alternative antischistosomal drugs merits the study of new approaches of chemotherapy. The rational design of a drug is usually based on biochemical and physiological differences between pathogens and host. Pyrimidine metabolism is an excellent target for such studies. Schistosomes, unlike most of the host tissues, require a very active pyrimidine metabolism for the synthesis of DNA and RNA. This is essential for the production of the enormous numbers of eggs deposited daily by the parasite to which the granulomas response precipitates the pathogenesis of schistosomiasis. Furthermore, there are sufficient differences between corresponding enzymes of pyrimidine metabolism from the host and the parasite that can be exploited to design specific inhibitors or “subversive substrates” for the parasitic enzymes. Specificities of pyrimidine transport also diverge significantly between parasites and their mammalian host. This review deals with studies on pyrimidine metabolism in schistosomes and highlights the unique characteristic of this metabolism that could constitute excellent potential targets for the design of safe and effective antischistosomal drugs. In addition, pyrimidine metabolism in schistosomes is compared with that in other parasites where studies on pyrimidine metabolism have been more elaborate, in the hope of providing leads on how to identify likely chemotherapeutic targets which have not been looked at in schistosomes.
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    Author List

  • el Kouni MH
  • Start Page

  • 55
  • End Page

  • 80
  • Volume

  • 213