Does Strongyloides stercoralis infection protect against type 2 diabetes in humans? Evidence from Australian Aboriginal adults

Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2015 Mar;107(3):355-61. doi: 10.1016/j.diabres.2015.01.012. Epub 2015 Jan 21.


Objective: To explore the relationship between infection with Strongyloides stercoralis and the likelihood of having type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM).

Methods: Cross-sectional survey of 259 Aboriginal adults living in a remote community in northern Australia during 2013. Prior infection with S. stercoralis was determined by ELISA testing on serum. Main outcomes were eosinophil count, T2DM diagnosis, HbA1c, BMI, fasting lipids, Hb, blood pressure.

Findings: Ninety two participants (36%) had prior infection with S. stercoralis and 131 (51%) had T2DM. Those with previous S. stercoralis infection (ELISA titre ≥0.3) were 61% less likely to have a diagnosis of T2DM than those uninfected, adjusted for age, triglycerides, blood pressure and BMI using propensity score (adjusted OR=0.39, 0.23-0.67, P=0.001).

Interpretation: In this remote community where prevalence of both S. stercoralis and T2DM is very high, infection with S. stercoralis appears to be associated with a significantly reduced risk of T2DM in adults. A plausible immunological mechanism has been identified in animal models. If confirmed, this result may have practical implications for the prevention of T2DM and associated metabolic disorders in humans. This finding should be explored further with larger longitudinal studies in transitional populations where the risk of both conditions is high.

Funding: No external funding was required for this study.

Keywords: Helminth infection; Immunomodulation; Strongyloides stercoralis; Type 2 diabetes mellitus.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prevalence
  • Strongyloides stercoralis / physiology*
  • Strongyloidiasis / blood
  • Strongyloidiasis / complications
  • Strongyloidiasis / epidemiology*
  • Strongyloidiasis / physiopathology