Helped by gut bacteria, worms boost immunity

Researchers have discovered how intestinal worms “cross-talk” with gut bacteria to help boost the immune system.

Intestinal worms infect over two billion people across the world, mostly children, in areas with poor sanitation. But despite causing serious health problems, worms can actually help the immune system of its host as an indirect way of protecting themselves, researchers said.

Intestinal worms belong to a larger family of helminths, which are large multi-cellular parasites that can cause chronic infections in their hosts. Because of their long co-evolution with mammals, helminths have developed a close relationship with their host’s immune systems, to the point that they can regulate the host’s immune system in beneficial ways.

For example, helminths can ameliorate diseases such as allergic asthma. However, very little is known about how helminths modulate the immune system.

Microbiome pathway

Nicola Harris at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland has now shown that the anti-inflammatory activity of intestinal helminths involves “cross-talk” with an unexpected agent: the gut’s bacteria, also known as the “microbiome.”

In this study, the researchers looked at the effects of helminths that infect pigs.

The research was published in the journal Immunity . — PTI

Helminths can ameliorate diseases such as allergic asthma, says a new study