Eew! Helminths (worms) go viral

Eew! Helminths (worms) go viral

Are you having trouble with recurrent viral infections? Perhaps it’s because you also have a worm (helminth) infection. Immunology research recently published in Science suggests that.

Parasitic worms are strong activators of T-helper cell 2, a lymphocyte that then produces cytokines that can help kill helminths, but that also turns off production of the cytokine interferon, which is a mainstay for fighting viruses. Helminths also reprogram the macrophages (“big eaters”), a type of white blood cell, so that they fight the worms, but totally ignore viruses.

This double whammy on the immune system’s ability to fight viruses can lead to reactivation of latent viruses such as herpes or shingles, but also to greater chance of catching new viruses.

This latter issue especially applies in third-world areas where worm infestation is common, and along with HIV and Ebola viruses.

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