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Concept: Intestinal parasite


SUMMARY Host-parasite interactions generally involve communities of parasites. Within these communities, species will co-exist and/or interact with one another in a manner either benefiting the species involved or to the detriment of one or more of the species. At the level of helminth infracommunities, evidence for intra- and inter-specific competition includes numerical responses, i.e. those regulating helminth intensity of infection, and functional responses, i.e. where the presence of competitors modifies the realised niche of infrapopulations. The objectives of this study are to assess the numerical and functional responses of helminths in infracommunities from 3 rajid skates using general linear models. Despite a lack of numerical responses, functional responses to intra- and inter-specific interactions were observed. A positive correlation between the number of individuals in an infrapopulation and its niche breadth (functional response) was observed for the tapeworms Pseudanthobothrium spp. and Echeneibothrium spp., in all their respective hosts, and for the nematode Pseudanisakis sp. in the little skate. Evidence for inter-specific competition includes niche shifts in Pseudanthobothrium purtoni (ex little skate) and Pseudanisakis sp. (ex thorny skate) in the presence of Pseudanisakis sp. and the tapeworm Grillotia sp., respectively. These results are consistent with other studies in providing evidence for competition between helminths of skates.

Concepts: Intestinal parasite, Barndoor skate


SUMMARYPhylogeography of parasites and microbes is a recent field. Phylogeographic studies have been performed mostly to test three major hypotheses that are not mutually exclusive on the origins and distributions of human parasites and microbes: (1) the “out of Africa” pattern where parasites are supposed to have followed the dispersal and expansion of modern humans in and out of Africa, (2) the “domestication” pattern where parasites were captured in the domestication centres and dispersed through them and (3) the “globalization” pattern, in relation to historical and more recent trade routes. With some exceptions, such studies of human protozoans, helminths and ectoparasites are quite limited. The conclusion emphasizes the need to acquire more phylogeographic data in non-Occidental countries, and particularly in Asia where all the animal domestications took place.

Concepts: Human, Bacteria, Africa, Fungus, Intestinal parasite, Parasitism, Human evolution, Prehistory


Helminth parasites are masters of immune regulation; a likely prerequisite for long-term survival by circumventing their hosts' attempt to eradicate them. From a translational perspective, knowledge of immune events as a response to infection with a helminth parasite could be used to reduce the intensity of unwanted inflammatory reactions. Substantial data have accumulated showing that inflammatory reactions that promote a variety of auto-inflammatory diseases are dampened as a consequence of infection with helminth parasites, via either the mobilization of an anti-worm spectrum of immune events or by the direct effect of secretory/excretory bioactive immunomodulatory molecules released from the parasite. However, many issues are outstanding in the definition of the mechanism(s) by which infection with helminth parasites can affect the outcome, positively or negatively, of concomitant disease. We focus on a subgroup of this complex group of metazoan parasites, the cestodes, summarizing studies from rodent models that illustrate if, and by what mechanisms, infection with tapeworms ameliorate or exaggerate disease in their host. The ability of infection with cestodes, or other classes of helminth, to worsen a disease course or confer susceptibility to intracellular pathogens should be carefully considered in the context of ‘helminth therapy’. In addition, poorly characterized cestode extracts can regulate murine and human immunocyte function, yet the impact of these in the context of autoimmune or allergic diseases is poorly understood. Thus, studies with cestodes, as representative helminths, have helped cement the concept that infection with parasitic helminths can inhibit concomitant disease; however, issues relating to long-term effects, potential side-effects, mixed pathogen infections and purification of immunomodulatory molecules from the parasite remain as challenges that need to be addressed in order to achieve the use of helminths as anti-inflammatory agents for human diseases.

Concepts: Immune system, Inflammation, Disease, Infectious disease, Bacteria, Infection, Intestinal parasite, Anti-inflammatory


Summary: Helminth parasites infect almost one-third of the world’s population, primarily in tropical regions. However, regions where helminth parasites are endemic record much lower prevalences of allergies and autoimmune diseases, suggesting that parasites may protect against immunopathological syndromes. Most helminth diseases are spectral in nature, with a large proportion of relatively asymptomatic cases and a subset of patients who develop severe pathologies. The maintenance of the asymptomatic state is now recognized as reflecting an immunoregulatory environment, which may be promoted by parasites, and involves multiple levels of host regulatory cells and cytokines; a breakdown of this regulation is observed in pathological disease. Currently, there is much interest in whether helminth-associated immune regulation may ameliorate allergy and autoimmunity, with investigations in both laboratory models and human trials. Understanding and exploiting the interactions between these parasites and the host regulatory network are therefore likely to highlight new strategies to control both infectious and immunological diseases.

Concepts: Immune system, Antibody, Disease, Infectious disease, Infection, Intestinal parasite, Immunology, Allergy


Solid evidence regarding the epidemiology of intestinal helminth infections in Tajikistan is currently lacking. As such information is essential for the evidence-based design, implementation and evaluation of control interventions, a national intestinal helminth survey was conducted with the following objectives: i) to assess the prevalence of intestinal helminth infections among school-aged children nationally and stratified by region; ii) to identify locally relevant risk factors for infection; and iii) to better understand the children’s knowledge and perception of intestinal helminth infections, and asses their haemoglobin status. Standard field and laboratory procedures including the Kato-Katz thick smear and tape test were employed. Complete data was obtained for 1642 children from 33 randomly selected primary schools from different parts of the country. Across the country, prevalences of E. vermicularis, A. lumbricoides, H. nana and T. trichiura were 26.5%, 16.9%, 15.5% and 2.7% respectively. The prevalence of common soil-transmitted helminth (A. lumbricoides and T. trichiura) infections was 19.4%. No hookworm infections were detected, and prevalences of various infections differed significantly between administrative districts (all P<0.05). Hand washing after toilet usage (OR=0.78; P=0.047) and handling animals (OR=0.66; P=0.009) were identified as significant protective factors against E. vermicularis infections. H. nana infection was associated with a 2.85g/L decrease in haemoglobin levels (P<0.001) despite already low average haemoglobin levels. The proportions of children with knowledge about intestinal helminths and protective hygiene practices varied significantly between regions (both P<0.001). Mass albendazole administration to school-aged children and women of child-bearing age against intestinal helminths has now been initiated in Tajikistan, to be followed by mass albendazole and praziquantel distribution to school-aged children. In the longer term, an integrated approach including chemotherapy, provision of safe water and proper sanitation as well as targeted health education will be necessary to achieve sustainable control.

Concepts: Disease, Intestinal parasite, Hygiene, Hookworm, Parasitic worm, Parasitic animals, Pinworm, Helminthology


Helminth parasites defy immune exclusion through sophisticated evasion mechanisms, including activation of host immunosuppressive regulatory T (Treg) cells. The mouse parasite Heligmosomoides polygyrus can expand the host Treg population by secreting products that activate TGF-β signalling, but the identity of the active molecule is unknown. Here we identify an H. polygyrus TGF-β mimic (Hp-TGM) that replicates the biological and functional properties of TGF-β, including binding to mammalian TGF-β receptors and inducing mouse and human Foxp3(+) Treg cells. Hp-TGM has no homology with mammalian TGF-β or other members of the TGF-β family, but is a member of the complement control protein superfamily. Thus, our data indicate that through convergent evolution, the parasite has acquired a protein with cytokine-like function that is able to exploit an endogenous pathway of immunoregulation in the host.

Concepts: Immune system, DNA, Protein, Gene, Bacteria, Evolution, Fungus, Intestinal parasite


The finding of blood eosinophilia in a patient is a relatively frequent reason to refer him/her to a Clinical Department of Infectious Diseases. The doctor usually intends to rule out a parasitic disease in the autochthonous population, travelers or immigrants. It is uncommon for an eosinophilia to be produced by protozoa infection, whereas helminth parasites are more frequently associated with an increase of eosinophil counts in the infected patient. Eosinophilia can be the only abnormal finding, or it could be part of more complex clinical manifestations suffered by the patient. Furthermore, many, but not all, helminth infections are associated with eosinophilia, and the eosinophil level (low, high) differs according to parasite stages, helminth species, and worm co-infections. The purpose of the present article is to carry out a systematic review of cases and case series on helminth infections and eosinophilia reported in Spain from 1990 to 2015, making a distinction between autochthonous and imported (immigrants and travelers) cases, and studying their relationship with immunodepression situations.

Concepts: Immune system, Medicine, Disease, Infectious disease, Infection, Intestinal parasite, Parasitism, Transmission and infection of H5N1


Most studies on the relationship between helminth infections and atopic disorders have been conducted in (sub)tropical developing countries where exposure to multiple parasites and lifestyle can confound the relationship. We aimed to study the relationship between infection with the fish-borne helminth Opishorchis felineus and specific IgE, skin prick testing and atopic symptoms in Western-Siberia, with lifestyle and hygiene standards of a developed country.

Concepts: Immune system, Disease, Intestinal parasite, Developed country, Developing country, Cyprus, Human geography, Human Development Index


Quantifying the burden of parasitic diseases in relation to other diseases and injuries requires reliable estimates of prevalence for each disease and an analytic framework within which to estimate attributable morbidity and mortality. Here we use data included in the Global Atlas of Helminth Infection to derive new global estimates of numbers infected with intestinal nematodes (soil-transmitted helminths, STH: Ascaris lumbricoides, Trichuris trichiura and the hookworms) and use disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) to estimate disease burden.

Concepts: Disease, Infection, Intestinal parasite, Nematodes, Hookworm, Parasitic worm, Parasitic animals, Pinworm


Chronic intestinal parasite infection is a major global health problem, but mechanisms that promote chronicity are poorly understood. Here we describe a novel cellular and molecular pathway involved in the development of chronic intestinal parasite infection. We show that, early during development of chronic infection with the murine intestinal parasite Trichuris muris, TGFβ signalling in CD4+ T-cells is induced and that antibody-mediated inhibition of TGFβ function results in protection from infection. Mechanistically, we find that enhanced TGFβ signalling in CD4+ T-cells during infection involves expression of the TGFβ-activating integrin αvβ8 by dendritic cells (DCs), which we have previously shown is highly expressed by a subset of DCs in the intestine. Importantly, mice lacking integrin αvβ8 on DCs were completely resistant to chronic infection with T. muris, indicating an important functional role for integrin αvβ8-mediated TGFβ activation in promoting chronic infection. Protection from infection was dependent on CD4+ T-cells, but appeared independent of Foxp3+ Tregs. Instead, mice lacking integrin αvβ8 expression on DCs displayed an early increase in production of the protective type 2 cytokine IL-13 by CD4+ T-cells, and inhibition of this increase by crossing mice to IL-4 knockout mice restored parasite infection. Our results therefore provide novel insights into how type 2 immunity is controlled in the intestine, and may help contribute to development of new therapies aimed at promoting expulsion of gut helminths.

Concepts: Immune system, Gene expression, Bacteria, Parasites, Asthma, Intestinal parasite, Intestine, Protection