Parasites. “Benefits” of worms for immunity

The harm of parasites today is known to everyone: hypovitaminosis, exhaustion, various “digestive” disorders and other troubles. However, some modern researchers argue that worms are also beneficial. For example, they protect the host from bronchial asthma and other allergic reactions.

Ancient symbiosis
Helminths have an amazing ability to “hide” from immunity. And, to be more precise, to have some immunosuppressive effect.

The first studies on this topic were carried out in Gabon in 2005.

Then scientists noticed a “strange” link between the high prevalence of helminthic invasions in the third world and a low level of allergic reactions in the same place.

The results of the analysis, published in the journal Nature, explain this phenomenon by the stimulation of the release of “calming” immune cells – type 2 T-helpers. Which “slow down” the activity of B-lymphocytes that produce antibodies, including against “harmless” allergens.

Some suppression of immunity by parasites is an evolutionary defense mechanism of the latter from the “aggression” of the host. However, as noted by the head of the research group, Rick Meisels from the University of Edinburgh, this same mechanism protects the “carrier” from excessive immunological reactions.

According to the researcher, without parasites, some people would be vulnerable to many immunological problems. Such as allergic reactions, autoimmune diseases and hyperreactivity to viruses and bacteria. And the surge of bronchial asthma in developed countries, Meisels partially associates with good hygiene and anthelmintic prophylaxis.

Of course, such a statement aroused genuine interest from the medical community. And a little later, already British researchers, in an experiment on mice, confirmed Meisels’ hypothesis.

When blood from nematode-infected mice was injected into rodents free of worms but showing signs of asthma, the latter was immediately suppressed.

The authors of the study, published in The Journal of Experimental Medicine, expressed the hope that the experiment will become the basis for the development of fundamentally new antiallergic drugs. Given the discovery of a new “way” to suppress allergies.

A fine line
The study of the “benefits” of helminths, of course, did not stop with British scientists.

Further studies have confirmed the positive effect of helminthic invasions on the course of many autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes mellitus, rheumatism and others.

The “pluses” of helminthiasis were reduced to a decrease in the frequency and severity of periods of exacerbations. The same was true for severe allergic reactions.

Of course, scientists do not view targeted parasite infestation as a “new generation drug.” And the research results only help to study the intricacies of the immune response and how to influence it.

Do not forget about the obvious “disadvantages” of worms:

anemia (more often B12-deficiency),
hypo- and avitaminosis,
protein deficiency
impaired absorption of nutrients,

hepatic dysfunction (in the case of hepatic localization of the parasite) – nausea, heaviness, intolerance to fatty foods,
general disturbance of well-being.
In fact, the signs of helminthic infestation depend on their “chosen habitat” and can vary significantly from mild, unnoticeable forms to severe conditions.

How to check
As already noted, parasites, over the course of evolution, “learned” to get away from the aggression of the immune system quite well. And for this reason, their identification, even today, is a difficult medical task.

1. “Diagnosis of parasitic diseases” by blood is the determination of class G antibodies to the most common pathogens.

Such an analysis confirms the fact of the organism’s “acquaintance” with the parasite, but cannot confirm or deny the presence of the latter at the present moment in time. True, taking into account the phenomenon of spontaneous healing, the presence of IgG is more often considered as a sign of an existing helminthic invasion.

2. Study of feces for protozoa and helminth eggs by the enrichment method (PARASEP).

Unlike its “ancestor” – the classical analysis of feces for worm eggs, the method is enhanced by the ability to filter and enrich feces. This significantly increases its diagnostic value and allows you to detect 16 types of parasites, including protozoa (lamblia and others).

However, the complex life cycle of parasites (from egg to adult) creates the prerequisites for obtaining false negative results. In this connection, the study is recommended to be carried out three times with an interval of 3-5 days.

As you can see, the examination for worms has a lot of nuances and features. Therefore, for a full diagnostic coverage, it is advisable to donate both feces and blood at the same time.

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