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Worms can dampen the immune response in humans. For that reason, mild infections with swine whipworms (Trichuris suis), which are temporarily residing in the intestine of humans, are currently being investigated for their therapeutic efficacy against autoimmune disorders. Clinical observations suggest, however, that only a chronic infection, also called “infestation”, with worms suppresses immune reactions of the human host. In persons who have been exposed to worms for the first time, an acute worm infection may trigger allergic reactions instead. This applies primarily to worms that, at least during their larval stages, migrate through human tissues, which does not include the whipworm. However, whip worms certainly trigger a local immune response in the intestine – which is meant to be the therapeutic principle – and it is this reaction that in acute, first-time infections might as well be allergic and not immunosuppressive.
Amoebas causing amoebic dysentery carry on their surfaces a substance that significantly enhances a specific immune reaction in the host. The substance is composed of an interesting combination of carbohydrates, peptides, phosphate residues and lipid chains.
Magenbakterien (Helicobacter pylori) wurden erst in den 1980er Jahren entdeckt und als eine wesentliche Ursache für Magengeschwüre und Magenkrebs erkannt.
The tissue worm disease onchocerciasis is spread over many African countries. The worms dwell in nodules underneath the skin und produce numerous larvae, which fan out all over the skin including the eye where they ultimately cause blindness. Therefore, and because of the breeding sites of the transmitting insects, the disease is called river blindness.
Apparently, worms play it safe with respect to immunosuppression. At least the intestinal roundworm Strongyloides does so in an experimental infection of mice.
As the efficiency of the malaria vaccine RTS,S (Mosquirix™) has decreased considerably over time, we have looked for a means to prolong the protective effect by manipulating the immune response in a mouse model.
To avoid their expulsion, parasitic worms suppress our immune system. As a result, they can also attenuate the immune response to vaccinations.
We are characterising substances that intestinal worms use to dampen the immune response of their hosts.