Parasites, nutrition, immune responses and biology of metabolic tissues

Parasite Immunol. 2017 May;39(5):10.1111/pim.12422. doi: 10.1111/pim.12422. Epub 2017 Mar 22.


Nutritional immunology, immunometabolism and identification of novel immunotherapeutic targets are areas of active investigation in parasitology. There is a well-documented crosstalk among immune cells and cells in metabolically active tissues that is important for homeostasis. The numbers and function of these cells are altered by obesity leading to inflammation. A variety of helminths spend some part of their life cycle in the gastrointestinal tract and even entirely enteral nematode infections exert beneficial effects on glucose and lipid metabolism. The foundation of this review is the ability of enteric nematode infections to improve obesity-induced type 2 diabetes and the metabolic syndrome, which are significant health issues in developed areas. It considers the impact of nutrition and specific nutritional deficiencies, which are occur in both undeveloped and developed areas, on the host's ability mount a protective immune response against parasitic nematodes. There are a number of proposed mechanisms by which parasitic nematodes can impact metabolism including effects gastrointestinal hormones, altering epithelial function and changing the number and/or phenotype of immune cells in metabolic tissues. Nematodes can also exert their beneficial effects through Th2 cytokines that activate the transcription factor STAT6, which upregulates genes that regulate glucose and lipid metabolism.

Keywords: Th-2; cell; disease; immune modulation; malnutrition; mucosa.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / etiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / immunology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / therapy
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Syndrome / immunology*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / therapy
  • Nematode Infections / immunology*
  • Obesity / complications
  • Therapy with Helminths