Infection with helminths in sub-Saharan Africa could modulate the immune response towards Plasmodium falciparum as well as susceptibility to malaria infection and disease. The aim of this study is to assess the antibody responses to helminths species in malaria-exposed populations from Burkina Faso. Plasma samples were collected in rural villages inhabited by Fulani, Mossi and Rimaibe communities, and IgG against parasitic helminths were measured by ELISA. The prevalence of IgG against antigens of Strongyloides stercoralis, Wuchereria bancrofti and Schistosoma haematobium (Soluble Egg Antigen, SEA) was 5%, 16% and 63% respectively, in line with estimates of infection prevalence in the region for the three parasites. Anti-SEA IgG prevalence was highest at 10-20 years of age, higher in males than females, and did not show differences between ethnic groups. However, the Fulani showed lower levels of anti-SEA IgG suggesting that lighter S. haematobium infections may occur in the ethnic group known for a marked lower susceptibility to P. falciparum. The present data support the use of serological methods for integrated surveillance of neglected tropical diseases such as soil-transmitted helminths, lymphatic filariasis and bilharzia. Furthermore, as helminth infections might promote downregulation of immune responses against intracellular pathogens, the observation of lower anti-SEA IgG levels in the malaria resistant Fulani population warrants further investigation into the immunological cross-talk between S. haematobium and P. falciparum in this geographical region.
Keywords: Fulani; Immunity; Lymphatic filariasis; Malaria; Schistosomiasis; Soil-transmitted helminths; Sub-Saharan Africa.
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