Immunity to helminths: resistance, regulation, and susceptibility to gastrointestinal nematodes

Annu Rev Immunol. 2015;33:201-25. doi: 10.1146/annurev-immunol-032713-120218. Epub 2014 Dec 17.


Helminth parasites are a highly successful group of pathogens that challenge the immune system in a manner distinct from rapidly replicating infectious agents. Of this group, roundworms (nematodes) that dwell in the intestines of humans and other animals are prevalent worldwide. Currently, more than one billion people are infected by at least one species, often for extended periods of time. Thus, host-protective immunity is rarely complete. The reasons for this are complex, but laboratory investigation of tractable model systems in which protective immunity is effective has provided a mechanistic understanding of resistance that is characterized almost universally by a type 2/T helper 2 response. Greater understanding of the mechanisms of susceptibility has also provided the basis for defining host immunoregulation and parasite-evasion strategies, helping place in context the changing patterns of immunological disease observed worldwide.

Keywords: effector mechanisms; innate lymphoid cells; mucosal immunity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity
  • Animals
  • Antigens, Helminth / immunology
  • Disease Resistance
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / immunology
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / microbiology
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / parasitology
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome
  • Helminthiasis / immunology*
  • Helminthiasis / parasitology*
  • Helminths / immunology*
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Nematoda / immunology
  • Nematode Infections / immunology
  • Nematode Infections / microbiology
  • Nematode Infections / parasitology


  • Antigens, Helminth