Fatalities caused by parasitic infections often occur as a result of tissue injury that results from a form of host-cell death known as apoptosis. However, instead of being pathogenic, parasite-induced apoptosis may facilitate host survival. Consequently, it is of utmost importance to decipher and understand the process and the role of apoptosis induced or controlled by parasites in humans. Despite this, few studies provide definitive knowledge of parasite-induced host-cell apoptosis. Here, the focus is on a consideration of host-cell apoptosis as either a pathogenic feature or as a factor enabling parasite survival and development.
Cell death by apoptotic-like mechanisms could be described as a ride to death with a return ticket, as initiation of the pathway may be reversed, with the potential that it could be manipulated for therapeutic purposes. The management of host-cell apoptosis could thus be an adjunctive factor for parasitic disease treatment. Evidence that the apoptotic process could be reversed by anti-apoptotic drugs has recently been obtained, leading to the possibility of host-cell rescue after injury. An important issue will be to predict the beneficial or deleterious effects of controlling human cell death by apoptotic-like mechanisms during parasitic diseases.