The intestinal tract is home to nematodes as well as commensal bacteria (microbiota), which have coevolved with the mammalian host. The mucosal immune system must balance between an appropriate response to dangerous pathogens and an inappropriate response to commensal microbiota that may breach the epithelial barrier, in order to maintain intestinal homeostasis. IL-22 has been shown to play a critical role in maintaining barrier homeostasis against intestinal pathogens and commensal bacteria. Here we review the advances in our understanding of the role of IL-22 in helminth infections, as well as in response to commensal and pathogenic bacteria of the intestinal tract. We then consider the relationship between intestinal helminths and gut microbiota and hypothesize that this relationship may explain how helminths may improve symptoms of inflammatory bowel diseases. We propose that by inducing an immune response that includes IL-22, intestinal helminths may enhance the mucosal barrier function of the intestinal epithelium. This may restore the mucosal microbiota populations from dysbiosis associated with colitis and improve intestinal homeostasis.
Copyright © 2012 Australian Society for Parasitology Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.