A worm of one's own: how helminths modulate host adipose tissue function and metabolism

Trends Parasitol. 2015 Sep;31(9):435-41. doi: 10.1016/j.pt.2015.04.008. Epub 2015 May 16.


Parasitic helminths have coexisted with human beings throughout time. Success in eradicating helminths has limited helminth-induced morbidity and mortality but is also correlated with increasing rates of 'western' diseases, including metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Recent studies in mice describe how type 2 immune cells, traditionally associated with helminth infection, maintain adipose tissue homeostasis and promote adipose tissue beiging, protecting against obesity and metabolic dysfunction. Here, we review these studies and discuss how helminths and helminth-derived molecules may modulate these physiologic pathways to improve metabolic functions in specific tissues, such as adipose and liver, as well as at the whole-organism level.

Keywords: adipose tissue; diabetes; helminth; metabolism; type 2 immunity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / immunology
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Adipose Tissue / parasitology
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Helminthiasis / immunology
  • Helminthiasis / metabolism*
  • Helminths / physiology
  • Host-Parasite Interactions / physiology*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / parasitology
  • Mice