Suppression of Obesity by an Intestinal Helminth through Interactions with Intestinal Microbiota

Infect Immun. 2019 May 21;87(6):e00042-19. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00042-19. Print 2019 Jun.


Obesity is increasingly causing lifestyle diseases in developed countries where helminthic infections are rarely seen. Here, we investigated whether an intestinal nematode, Heligmosomoides polygyrus, has a suppressive role in diet-induced obesity in mice. Infection with H. polygyrus suppressed weight gain in obese mice, which was associated with increased uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1) expression in adipocytes and a higher serum norepinephrine (NE) concentration. Blocking interactions of NE with its receptor on adipocytes resulted in the failure to prevent weight gain and to enhance UCP1 expression in obese mice infected with H. polygyrus, indicating that NE is responsible for the protective effects of H. polygyrus on obesity. In addition to sympathetic nerve-derived NE, the intestinal microbiota was involved in the increase in NE. Infection with H. polygyrus altered the composition of intestinal bacteria, and antibiotic treatment to reduce intestinal bacteria reversed the higher NE concentration, UCP1 expression, and prevention of the weight gain observed after H. polygyrus infection. Our data indicate that H. polygyrus exerts suppressive roles on obesity through modulation of microbiota that produce NE.

Keywords: helminth; immunity; microbiota; obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Biological Therapy*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans
  • Intestines / microbiology
  • Intestines / parasitology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Obese
  • Nematospiroides dubius / physiology*
  • Norepinephrine / metabolism
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity / microbiology*
  • Obesity / parasitology
  • Obesity / therapy*
  • Uncoupling Protein 1 / genetics
  • Uncoupling Protein 1 / metabolism


  • Uncoupling Protein 1
  • Norepinephrine