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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.
Chronic worm infections induce changes in the immune system that can impair vaccination efficacy.
We characterize compounds used by worms to dampen our immune system.
The few millimeter long larvae of the roundworm Strongyloides ratti penetrate the skin of rats or mice and migrate through their bodies for two days before they reach the small intestine.