Parasitic helminths and their beneficial impact on type 1 and type 2 diabetes

Diabetes Metab Res Rev. 2016 Mar;32(3):238-50. doi: 10.1002/dmrr.2673. Epub 2015 Aug 19.


It is estimated that by the year 2035 almost 600 million people will suffer from diabetes. In the case of type 2 diabetes, the strongest increase of diabetes incidence occurs in developing and newly industrialized countries. This increase correlates not only with a progressing sedentary lifestyle and nutritional changes, but also environmental changes. Similarly, the increase of type 1 diabetes incidence in industrialized countries over the past decades cannot be explained by genetic factors alone, suggesting that environmental changes are also involved. One such environmental change is a reduced exposure to pathogens because of improved hygiene. Parasitic helminths modulate the immune system of their hosts and induce type 2 as well as regulatory immune responses. As pro-inflammatory immune responses are crucial for the onset of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, helminth-induced immunomodulation may prevent diabetes onset and ameliorate insulin sensitivity. Several epidemiological studies in human and experimental animal models support such a protective effect of helminths for autoimmune diabetes. Recent studies further suggest that helminths may also provide such a beneficial effect for type 2 diabetes. In this review we summarize studies that investigated parasitic helminths and helminth-derived products and their impact on both type 1 and type 2 diabetes highlighting potential protective mechanisms.

Keywords: adipose; diabetes; helminth; insulin resistance; obesity; regulatory.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / immunology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / prevention & control*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / immunology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / prevention & control*
  • Helminths / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunomodulation