Helminths in the gastrointestinal tract as modulators of immunity and pathology

Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2017 Jun 1;312(6):G537-G549. doi: 10.1152/ajpgi.00024.2017. Epub 2017 Mar 16.


Helminth parasites are highly prevalent in many low- and middle-income countries, in which inflammatory bowel disease and other immunopathologies are less frequent than in the developed world. Many of the most common helminths establish themselves in the gastrointestinal tract and can exert counter-inflammatory influences on the host immune system. For these reasons, interest has arisen as to how parasites may ameliorate intestinal inflammation and whether these organisms, or products they release, could offer future therapies for immune disorders. In this review, we discuss interactions between helminth parasites and the mucosal immune system, as well as the progress being made toward identifying mechanisms and molecular mediators through which it may be possible to attenuate pathology in the intestinal tract.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / immunology
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / parasitology*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / pathology
  • Helminthiasis / immunology
  • Helminthiasis / metabolism
  • Helminthiasis / parasitology*
  • Helminthiasis / pathology
  • Helminths / immunology
  • Helminths / metabolism
  • Helminths / physiology*
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Humans
  • Hygiene Hypothesis
  • Immunity, Mucosal*
  • Immunotherapy / methods
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / immunology
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / metabolism
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / parasitology
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / therapy
  • Intestinal Diseases, Parasitic / immunology
  • Intestinal Diseases, Parasitic / metabolism
  • Intestinal Diseases, Parasitic / parasitology*
  • Intestinal Diseases, Parasitic / pathology
  • Symbiosis
  • Therapy with Helminths