Helminth infection, fecundity, and age of first pregnancy in women

Science. 2015 Nov 20;350(6263):970-2. doi: 10.1126/science.aac7902.


Infection with intestinal helminths results in immunological changes that influence co-infections, and might influence fecundity by inducing immunological states affecting conception and pregnancy. We investigated associations between intestinal helminths and fertility in women, using 9 years of longitudinal data from 986 Bolivian forager-horticulturalists, experiencing natural fertility and 70% helminth prevalence. We found that different species of helminth are associated with contrasting effects on fecundity. Infection with roundworm (Ascaris lumbricoides) is associated with earlier first births and shortened interbirth intervals, whereas infection with hookworm is associated with delayed first pregnancy and extended interbirth intervals. Thus, helminths may have important effects on human fertility that reflect physiological and immunological consequences of infection.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Ascariasis / epidemiology
  • Ascariasis / immunology
  • Ascaris lumbricoides / immunology
  • Bolivia / epidemiology
  • Coinfection
  • Female
  • Fertility / immunology*
  • Fertility / physiology
  • Gravidity / immunology*
  • Gravidity / physiology
  • Helminthiasis / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Diseases, Parasitic / epidemiology
  • Intestinal Diseases, Parasitic / immunology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prevalence
  • Young Adult