Maternal helminth infections and the shaping of offspring immunity

Parasite Immunol. 2019 Mar;41(3):e12599. doi: 10.1111/pim.12599. Epub 2018 Nov 20.


Helminth infections leave a long-lasting immunological footprint on their hosts. Clinical studies have provided first evidence that maternal helminth infections can result in an altered immune profile in their offspring which can potentially shape how they respond to conditions throughout life. This can relate to changes in offspring induction of immune responses against other diseases. However, whether these changes result in actual changes in offspring ability to control disease is unclear. Our understanding of which immune mechanisms are altered and how they are changed is limited. In this review, we highlight what we know from human and mouse studies about this important context of helminth exposure. Moreover, we discuss how mechanisms such as antibody transfer, antigen exposure, maternal cell uptake, chimerism and epigenetics are all likely to be functional contributors to the striking changes that are seen in offspring born or nursed by helminth exposed mothers.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Helminth / immunology
  • Female
  • Fetus / immunology*
  • Helminthiasis / immunology*
  • Helminthiasis / parasitology
  • Helminths / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Maternally-Acquired / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mothers


  • Antigens, Helminth