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article imageParasitic intestinal worms boost the immune system

By Tim Sandle     Oct 30, 2015 in Science
While parasitic intestinal works cause a range of diseases and are responsible for widespread infection worldwide, a new study has found that some worms, through protecting themselves in the human body, indirectly aid the immune system.
Parasitic worms that infect mammalian intestines are helminths. Some cause chronic infections. In order to protect themselves from the body’s innate immune system, many species of worm are adept at regulating the host’s immune system.
An outcome of this is that the worm can actually aid the host in overcoming other diseases. One example is with allergic asthma, where worm infestations have been shown to ameliorate the disease.
Researchers have pondered whether the activities of the worms can be studied to see if a drug, which might work in a similar way, could be produced to modulate the immune system to fight diseases that are caused by inflammation.
Studies have found that the anti-inflammatory processes triggered by intestinal helminths involve chemical communication with the bacteria that reside in the gut. This adds further weight to the influence that the gut microbiome plays on human health.
To test out these theories, researchers looked parasitic worm infections in pigs. These experiments found that chronic worm infections altered the porcine metabolism considerably, leading to a higher production of short-chain fatty acids. These fats were found to activate receptors which, in turn, influenced the immune system. Similar effects were found when studies were conducted with mice.
These studies have led the researchers to conclude that there is a clear connection between worm infection, microbiome, and the immune system.
Taking this knowledge, researchers hope to identify a new biochemical pathway whereby the immune system can be influenced in a way to help combat disease.
The research was carried out at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and the findings are published in the journal Immunity. The research is titled “The intestinal microbiota contributes to the ability of helminths to modulate allergic inflammation.”
More about helminths, Parasites, Worms, Immunity, Immune System
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