There is a growing understanding of risks posed by human contact with the cercariae of bird schistosomes. In general, there are no fundamental biological differences between human and bird schistosomes in terms of their interactions with snail and vertebrate hosts. The penetration of host surfaces is accompanied by the release of penetration gland products and the shedding of highly antigenic surface components (miracidial ciliated plates and cercarial glycocalyx) which trigger host immune reactions. New surface structures are formed during transformation: the tegument of mother sporocysts and the tegumental double membrane of schistosomula. These surfaces apparently serve as protection against the host immune response. Certain parasite excretory-secretory products may contribute to immunosuppression or, on the other hand, stimulation of host immune reactions. Discovery of new species and their life cycles, the characterization of host-parasite interactions (including at the molecular level), the determination of parasite pathogenicity towards the host, the development of tools for differential diagnosis and the application of protective measures are all topical research streams of the future. Regularly updated information on bird schistosomes and cercarial dermatitis can be found at http://www.schistosomes.cz (web pages of Schistosome Group Prague).
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