Helminths and their implication in sepsis - a new branch of their immunomodulatory behaviour?

Pathog Dis. 2013 Nov;69(2):127-41. doi: 10.1111/2049-632X.12080. Epub 2013 Sep 10.


The prevalence of autoimmune and allergic disorders has dramatically increased in developed countries, and it is believed that our 'cleaner living' reduces exposure to certain microorganisms and leads to deviated and/or reduced regulation of the immune system. In substantiation of this health hygiene hypothesis, multiple epidemiological studies and animal models have characterized the protective immune responses induced by helminths during auto-inflammatory disorders. The beneficial effects of such helminths, like schistosomes and filariae, are thought to lie in their immunomodulatory capacity, which can be induced by different life-cycle stages or components thereof. In addition to suppressing autoimmunity recent evidence indicates that concurrent helminth infections also counterbalance exacerbated pro-inflammatory immune responses that occur during sepsis, improving survival. As with allergy, epidemiological studies have observed a steady rise in severe sepsis cases and although this may have resulted from several factors (immunosuppressive drugs, chemotherapy, transplantation, increased awareness and increased surgical procedures), it is tempting to hypothesize that the lack of helminth infections in Western countries may have contributed to this phenomenon. This review summarizes how helminths modulate host immunity during sepsis, such as manipulating macrophage activation and provides an overview about the possible implications that may arise during overwhelming bacterial co-infections.

Keywords: CARS; SIRS; helminth; hygiene hypothesis; immunomodulation; sepsis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Helminthiasis / complications*
  • Helminthiasis / immunology*
  • Helminths / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Sepsis / complications*
  • Sepsis / immunology*
  • Sepsis / pathology
  • Sepsis / prevention & control