It has been proposed that helminth infection may be particularly detrimental during pregnancy, through adverse effects on maternal anaemia and on birth outcomes, and that anthelminthic treatment during pregnancy will therefore be particularly beneficial. However, the few treatment trials that have been conducted have given, but little support to this notion and further trials in settings of nutritional stress are needed. It has also been proposed that prenatal exposure to helminth infection has an important effect on the development of the foetal immune response. There is evidence that this may impact, long-term, upon responses to helminth and nonhelminth antigens, and to allergens. Exposure to helminths in utero may also have nonspecific effects that may modify the offspring's susceptibility to diseases mediated by inflammation, including metabolic disorders. The mechanisms of such effects are not known, but they deserve to be explored as current epidemiological findings suggest the possibility of primary prevention for inflammatory conditions such as allergy, through intervention during pregnancy.
Keywords: allergy; anaemia; birthweight; helminth; offspring; pregnancy.
© 2014 The Authors. Parasite Immunology Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.