We recently completed clinical trials in people with diet-treated celiac disease who were purposefully infected with the ubiquitous human hookworm, Necator americanus. Hookworm infection elicited not only parasite-specific immunity but also modified the host's immune response to gluten. After infection, mucosal IL-1β and IL-22 responses were enhanced, but IFNγ and IL-17A levels and circulating regulatory T cells following gluten challenge were suppressed, and the adaptive response to gluten acquired a helper T cell type-2 profile. In this review, we briefly, (i) highlight the utility celiac disease offers autoimmune research, (ii) discuss safety and personal experience with N. americanus, (iii) summarise the direct and bystander impact that hookworm infection has on mucosal immunity to the parasite and gluten, respectively, and (iv) speculate why this hookworm's success depends on healing its host and how this might impact on a propensity to autoimmunity.
Copyright © 2013 Australian Society for Parasitology Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.