Schistosoma haematobium infection is associated with lower serum cholesterol levels and improved lipid profile in overweight/obese individuals

PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2020 Jul 2;14(7):e0008464. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0008464. eCollection 2020 Jul.


Infection with parasitic helminths has been reported to improve insulin sensitivity and glucose homeostasis, lowering the risk for type 2 diabetes. However, little is known about its impact on whole-body lipid homeostasis, especially in obese individuals. For this purpose, a cross-sectional study was carried out in lean and overweight/obese adults residing in the Lambaréné region of Gabon, an area endemic for Schistosoma haematobium. Helminth infection status, peripheral blood immune cell counts, and serum metabolic and lipid/lipoprotein levels were analyzed. We found that urine S. haematobium egg-positive individuals exhibited lower serum total cholesterol (TC; 4.42 vs 4.01 mmol/L, adjusted mean difference [95%CI] -0.30 [-0.68,-0.06]; P = 0.109), high-density lipoprotein (HDL)-C (1.44 vs 1.12 mmol/L, -0.24 [-0.43,-0.06]; P = 0.009) and triglyceride (TG; 0.93 vs 0.72 mmol/L, -0.20 [-0.39,-0.03]; P = 0.022) levels than egg-negative individuals. However, when stratified according to body mass index, these effects were only observed in overweight/obese infected individuals. Similarly, significant negative correlations between the intensity of infection, assessed by serum circulating anodic antigen (CAA) concentrations, and TC (r = -0.555; P<0.001), HDL-C (r = -0.327; P = 0.068), LDL-C (r = -0.396; P = 0.025) and TG (r = -0.381; P = 0.032) levels were found in overweight/obese individuals but not in lean subjects. Quantitative lipidomic analysis showed that circulating levels of some lipid species associated with cholesterol-rich lipoprotein particles were also significantly reduced in overweight/obese infected individuals in an intensity-dependent manner. In conclusion, we reported that infection with S. haematobium is associated with improved lipid profile in overweight/obese individuals, a feature that might contribute reducing the risk of cardiometabolic diseases in such population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cholesterol / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Lipids / blood*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Overweight / metabolism*
  • Schistosomiasis haematobia / metabolism*
  • Young Adult


  • Lipids
  • Cholesterol

Grant support

This work was supported by funding from the Dutch Organization for Scientific Research: [ZonMw TOP Grant 91214131 to MY and BG] & [NWO project 184.034.019 to MG] The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.