Human Intestinal Microbiota: Interaction Between Parasites and the Host Immune Response

Arch Med Res. 2017 Nov;48(8):690-700. doi: 10.1016/j.arcmed.2017.11.015. Epub 2017 Dec 28.


The human gut is a highly complex ecosystem with an extensive microbial community, and the influence of the intestinal microbiota reaches the entire host organism. For example, the microbiome regulates fat storage, stimulates or renews epithelial cells, and influences the development and maturation of the brain and the immune system. Intestinal microbes can protect against infection by pathogenic bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. Hence, the maintenance of homeostasis between the gut microbiota and the rest of the body is crucial for health, with dysbiosis affecting disease. This review focuses on intestinal protozoa, especially those still representing a public health problem in Mexico, and their interactions with the microbiome and the host. The decrease in prevalence of intestinal helminthes in humans left a vacant ecological niche that was quickly occupied by protozoa. Although the mechanisms governing the interaction between intestinal microbiota and protozoa are poorly understood, it is known that the composition of the intestinal bacterial populations modulates the progression of protozoan infection and the outcome of parasitic disease. Most reports on the complex interactions between intestinal bacteria, protozoa and the immune system emphasize the protective role of the microbiota against protozoan infection. Insights into such protection may facilitate the manipulation of microbiota components to prevent and treat intestinal protozoan infections. Here we discuss recent findings about the immunoregulatory effect of intestinal microbiota with regards to intestinal colonization by protozoa, focusing on infections by Entamoeba histolytica, Blastocystis spp, Giardia duodenalis, Toxoplasma gondii and Cryptosporidium parvum. The possible consequences of the microbiota on parasitic, allergic and autoimmune disorders are also considered.

Keywords: Cell interactions; Dysbiosis; Immune response; Inflammation; Intestinal parasites; Protozoa.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dysbiosis / immunology*
  • Dysbiosis / microbiology
  • Dysbiosis / parasitology
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / immunology*
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Mexico
  • Parasites / immunology*
  • Parasites / microbiology*
  • Protozoan Infections / etiology*
  • Protozoan Infections / immunology
  • Protozoan Infections / microbiology