Background: Human and animal studies have demonstrated that helminth infections are associated with a decreased prevalence of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). However, very little is known about their biochemical and immunological interactions.
Methods: To assess the relationship between a soil-transmitted helminth, Strongyloides stercoralis (Ss), and T2DM, we examined analytes associated with glycemic control, metabolic processes, and T-cell-driven inflammation at the time of Ss diagnosis and 6 months after definitive anthelmintic treatment. We measured plasma levels of hemoglobin A1c, glucose, insulin, glucagon, adipocytokines, and T-helper (TH) 1-, 2-, and 17- associated cytokines in patients with T2DM with (INF group) or without (UN group) Ss infection. In INF individuals, we again assessed the levels of these analytes 6 months following anthelmintic treatment.
Results: Compared to UN individuals, INF individuals exhibited significantly diminished levels of insulin and glucagon that increased significantly following therapy. Similarly, INF individuals exhibited significantly diminished levels of adiponectin and adipsin that reversed following therapy. INF individuals also exhibited significantly decreased levels of the TH1- and TH17- associated cytokines in comparison to UN individuals; again, anthelmintic therapy augmented these levels. As expected, INF individuals had elevated levels of TH2-associated and regulatory cytokines that normalized following definitive therapy. Multivariate analysis revealed that these changes were independent of age, sex, body mass index, and liver and renal function.
Conclusions: Strongyloides stercoralis infection is associated with a significant modulation of glycemic, hormonal, and cytokine parameters in T2DM and its reversal following anthelmintic therapy. Hence, Ss infection has a protective effect on diabetes-related parameters.
Keywords: Strongyloides stercoralis infection; adipocytokines; cytokines; glycemic hormones; type 2 diabetes mellitus.
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