Helminth infection protects against high fat diet-induced obesity via induction of alternatively activated macrophages

Sci Rep. 2018 Mar 15;8(1):4607. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-22920-7.


Epidemiological studies indicate an inverse correlation between the prevalence of the so-called western diseases, such as obesity and metabolic syndrome, and the exposure to helminths. Obesity, a key risk factor for many chronic health problems, is rising globally and is accompanied by low-grade inflammation in adipose tissues. The precise mechanism by which helminths modulate metabolic syndrome and obesity is not fully understood. We infected high fat diet (HFD)-induced obese mice with the intestinal nematode parasite Heligmosomoides polygyrus and observed that helminth infection resulted in significantly attenuated obesity. Attenuated obesity corresponded with marked upregulation of uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1), a key protein involved in energy expenditure, in adipose tissue, suppression of glucose and triglyceride levels, and alteration in the expression of key genes involved in lipid metabolism. Moreover, the attenuated obesity in infected mice was associated with enhanced helminth-induced Th2/Treg responses and M2 macrophage polarization. Adoptive transfer of helminth-stimulated M2 cells to mice that were not infected with H. polygyrus resulted in a significant amelioration of HFD-induced obesity and increased adipose tissue browning. Thus, our results provide evidence that the helminth-dependent protection against obesity involves the induction of M2 macrophages.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue
  • Animals
  • Diet, High-Fat / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Macrophage Activation / immunology*
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Macrophages / parasitology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Obese
  • Nematospiroides dubius / immunology*
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Protective Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Strongylida Infections / immunology*
  • Strongylida Infections / parasitology


  • Protective Agents