New mechanism found on how a parasite leads to cancer

About 200 million people across 75 of the poorest countries in the world are now infected by the blood parasite Schistosoma haematobium (S. haematobium). The infection causes severe urogenital disease, but also causes bladder cancer in a number of patients and why this occurs is not clear.

But now a group of Portuguese scientists believe they have the answer – their research shows that the parasite's eggs can make human bladder cells behave as cancerous cells. And that key to this – according to the first author of the work Mónica Botelho– are catechol oestrogens, a molecule derived from oestrogen (the sex hormone) that was found by the researchers in the eggs and is known to be highly carcinogenic (causes cancer).