Stage-specific immune responses in human Necator americanus infection

Parasite Immunol. 2007 Jul;29(7):347-58. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3024.2007.00950.x.


We describe how hookworms interact with their human hosts by comparing lymphocyte phenotyping, proliferative responses, and cytokine and chemokine secretion patterns in adults who are either mono-infected with Necator americanus or egg-negative controls resident in an area of high transmission in Brazil. Cellular immune responses against crude hookworm antigen extracts from different developmental stages were evaluated simultaneously. Principal component analysis (PCA) was used to reduce the standardized immune responses. Random effects multivariate regression was then used to investigate whether principal components (PC) differ between the two groups once potential confounders and effect modifiers have been accounted for. Although hookworm patients had reduced percentages of T and B cells, they had higher levels of activated CD4(+) T and CD19(+) B cells. This state of 'immune activation' coincided with lower proliferative responses, especially to third-stage larval antigen. Cytokine levels in mono-infected adults were also lower and characterized by a mixed Th1/Th2-type profile. Excretory/secretory antigen from adult worms was a potent modulator of the immune response, resulting in diminished TNF-alpha and IL-10 secretion in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from hookworm infected patients. We propose that the longevity of hookworms in their human hosts results from a stage-specific, down-modulation of the immune response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Antigens, Helminth / immunology
  • Brazil
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Female
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Humans
  • Life Cycle Stages*
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology*
  • Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Necator americanus / growth & development*
  • Necator americanus / immunology*
  • Necator americanus / pathogenicity
  • Necatoriasis / immunology*
  • Necatoriasis / parasitology
  • Principal Component Analysis


  • Antigens, Helminth
  • Cytokines