Immunomodulation by helminths: Similar impact on type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

Parasite Immunol. 2017 May;39(5). doi: 10.1111/pim.12401. Epub 2016 Dec 15.


The incidence of both type 1 (T1D) and type 2 diabetes (T2D) is drastically increasing, and it is predicted that the global prevalence of diabetes will reach almost 600 million cases by 2035. Even though the pathogenesis of both types of diabetes is distinct, the immune system is actively involved in both forms of the disease. Genetic and environmental factors determine the risk to develop T1D. On the other hand, sedentary life style, surplus of food intake and other lifestyle changes contribute to the increase of T2D incidence. Improved sanitation with high-quality medical treatment is such an environmental factor that has led to a continuous reduction of infectious diseases including helminth infections over the past decades. Recently, a growing body of evidence has implicated a negative association between helminth infections and diabetes in humans as well as animal models. In this review, we discuss studies that have provided evidence for the beneficial impact of helminth infections on T1D and T2D. Possible mechanisms are presented by which helminths prevent T1D onset by mitigating pancreatic inflammation and confer protection against T2D by improving insulin sensitivity, alleviating inflammation, augmenting browning of adipose tissue and improving lipid metabolism and insulin signalling.

Keywords: adipose; diabetes; helminth; liver; obesity; pancreas.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / immunology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / parasitology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / immunology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / parasitology
  • Helminthiasis / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunomodulation