Immune modulation by helminthic infections: worms and viral infections

Parasite Immunol. 2006 Oct;28(10):483-96. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3024.2006.00909.x.


Helminthic infections occur worldwide, especially in developing countries. About one-quarter of the world's population, 1.5 billion, are infected with one or more of the major soil-transmitted helminths, including hookworms, ascarids, and whipworms. Schistosomes infect more than 200 million people worldwide with 600 million at risk in 74 countries. The interaction between helminths and the host's immune system provokes particular immunomodulatory and immunoregulatory mechanisms that ensure their survival in the host for years. However, these changes might impair the immunological response to bystander bacterial, viral, and protozoal pathogens and to vaccination. Modulation of the immune system by infection with helminthic parasites is proposed to reduce the levels of allergic responses and to protect against inflammatory bowel disease. In this review, we summarize the immunological milieu associated with helminthic infections and its impact on viral infections, mainly hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus, and human immunodeficiency virus in humans and experimental animals.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chronic Disease
  • Developing Countries
  • Helminthiasis / epidemiology
  • Helminthiasis / immunology*
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Humans
  • Th1 Cells / immunology
  • Th2 Cells / immunology
  • Vaccination
  • Virus Diseases / immunology*
  • Virus Diseases / virology*