The presence of naturally portacaval shunts has been investigated in the vasculature of normal and Schistosoma mansoni-infected Rattus rattus. Using the technique of injecting Polystyrene microspheres in the superior mesenteric vein, we demonstrated that the presence of adult schistosomes in the lungs of R. rattus was not due to an innate anomaly of the rat vasculature but resulted from the formation of portacaval shunts during infection. In rats harbouring a bisexual infection, microspheres were only detected in the lungs from week 7. The development and increasing size of the shunts were maximal between weeks 7 and 10 and coincident with the translocation of adult worms from the portal tract to the lungs. At weeks 20–25, only 1–2% of the microspheres were recovered from the lungs, suggesting that the portacaval anastomoses have regressed due to reduction in portal hypertension after worm translocation. R. rattus with a male-only schistosome infection harboured adult worms in the lungs, indicating that the development of shunts does not solely depend upon egg deposition in the liver to generate hypertension. The relationships between the presence of the schistosomes in the lungs, the portacaval shunting and the resistance to reinfection is discussed.
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