Worms and the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease: are molecules the answer?

Clin Dev Immunol. 2008;2008:567314. doi: 10.1155/2008/567314.


The lack of exposure to helminth infections, as a result of improved living standards and medical conditions, may have contributed to the increased incidence of IBD in the developed world. Epidemiological, experimental, and clinical data sustain the idea that helminths could provide protection against IBD. Studies investigating the underlying mechanisms by which helminths might induce such protection have revealed the importance of regulatory pathways, for example, regulatory T-cells. Further investigation on how helminths influence both innate and adaptive immune reactions will shed more light on the complex pathways used by helminths to regulate the hosts immune system. Although therapy with living helminths appears to be effective in several immunological diseases, the disadvantages of a treatment based on living parasites are explicit. Therefore, the identification and characterization of helminth-derived immunomodulatory molecules that contribute to the protective effect could lead to new therapeutic approaches in IBD and other immune diseases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Helminth Proteins / therapeutic use*
  • Helminthiasis / immunology*
  • Helminthiasis / parasitology
  • Helminths / immunology*
  • Helminths / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Mucosal
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / immunology*
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / therapy*
  • Mice
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*


  • Helminth Proteins