Helminths as governors of immune-mediated inflammation

Int J Parasitol. 2007 Apr;37(5):457-64. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpara.2006.12.009. Epub 2006 Dec 28.


Immune-mediated diseases (e.g. inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, multiple sclerosis and autoimmune diabetes) are increasing in prevalence and emerge as populations adopt meticulously hygienic lifestyles. This change in lifestyles precludes exposure to helminths (parasitic worms). Loss of natural helminth exposure removes a previously universal Th2 and regulatory immune biasing imparted by these organisms. Helminths protect animals from developing immune-mediated diseases (colitis, reactive airway disease, encephalitis and diabetes). Clinical trials show that exposure to helminths can reduce disease activity in patients with ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease. This paper summarises work by multiple groups demonstrating that colonization with helminths alters immune reactivity and protects against disease from dysregulated inflammation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Asthma / immunology
  • Asthma / parasitology
  • Asthma / therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / immunology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / parasitology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / therapy
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Helminthiasis / immunology
  • Helminthiasis / parasitology
  • Helminths / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immune System Diseases / immunology*
  • Immune System Diseases / parasitology
  • Immune System Diseases / therapy
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / immunology*
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / parasitology
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / therapy
  • Multiple Sclerosis / immunology
  • Multiple Sclerosis / parasitology
  • Multiple Sclerosis / therapy