Weight loss helps to oust worms

January 17, 2013, University of Manchester

Scientists from The University of Manchester have discovered that weight loss plays an important role in the body's response to fighting off intestinal worms.

The findings have been published in the journal and show that the immune system hijacks the natural feeding pathways causing weight loss. This then drives the defense mechanisms down the correct pathway to expel the worms.

Nearly one quarter of the world's population is infected with . These prevalent infections often result in a period of reduced appetite resulting in weight loss. However, little is known about the factors controlling these feeding alterations and the reason why they occur.

Scientists from the Manchester Immunology Group and the Institute of Inflammation and Repair studied the immune response system in mice that were lacking and feeding hormones. The mice were infected with the round worm parasite Trichinella spiralis.

They identified that the mouse immune response to the parasite was behind two periods of reduced feeding through two distinct immune mediators. Interestingly, the immune system was using the hormone cholecystokinin, which usually stops feeding during daily meals to cause a reduction in weight and fat deposits. This then reduced the levels of the fat produced , which can influence the immune response.

To see if this reduction in leptin was beneficial, the researchers restored the in the mice during the . They found that the treated mice did not make the correct immune response to the parasite resulting in a delayed worm expulsion.

Dr John Worthington from the Faculty of Life Sciences carried out the research: "We were quite surprised by what we found during this study. Normally weight loss is associated with a negative immune response but this appears to suggest just the opposite that the immune driven weight loss was actually beneficial to the mouse's ability to resolve an infection and get rid of the worm."

Dr Worthington continues: "Our study provides novel insights into how the immune system interacts with feeding pathways during intestinal inflammation. We hope it will help us to design new treatments for the many millions of people who suffer from parasitic infections of the gut."

Professor McLaughlin added: "This may also have relevance to why other human diseases causing inflammation of the digestive system affect appetite and nutrition".

The laboratories are currently expanding these studies to examine how other feeding hormones interact with the immune system during different infectious diseases.

Explore further: Heightened immunity to colds makes asthma flare-ups worse, research shows

More information: The paper entitled "Adaptive Immunity alters Distinct Host Feeding Pathways during Nematode Induced Inflammation, a Novel Mechanism in Parasite Expulsion" will be published in PLOS Pathogens on January 17. dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1003122

Related Stories

Heightened immunity to colds makes asthma flare-ups worse, research shows

June 16, 2011
People often talk about "boosting" their immunity to prevent and fight colds. Nutritional supplements, cold remedies and fortified foods claim to stave off colds by augmenting the immune system.

Scientists reveal how river blindness worm thrives

August 22, 2012
Scientists at the University of Liverpool have found that the worm which causes River Blindness survives by using a bacterium to provide energy, as well as help 'trick' the body's immune system into thinking it is fighting ...

New study brings long-sought vaccines for deadly parasite closer to reality

December 13, 2012
One major cause of illness from food-borne diseases is the parasite Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii). New insights into how the immune system combats T. gondii are provided in a study published by Cell Press December 13th in ...

Recommended for you

Flu infection study increases understanding of natural immunity

January 23, 2018
People with higher levels of antibodies against the stem portion of the influenza virus hemagglutinin (HA) protein have less viral shedding when they get the flu, but do not have fewer or less severe signs of illness, according ...

New long-acting approach for malaria therapy developed

January 22, 2018
A new study, published in Nature Communications, conducted by the University of Liverpool and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine highlights a new 'long acting' medicine for the prevention of malaria.

Virus shown to be likely cause of mystery polio-like illness

January 22, 2018
A major review by UNSW researchers has identified strong evidence that a virus called Enterovirus D68 is the cause of a mystery polio-like illness that has paralysed children in the US, Canada and Europe.

Creation of synthetic horsepox virus could lead to more effective smallpox vaccine

January 19, 2018
UAlberta researchers created a new synthetic virus that could lead to the development of a more effective vaccine against smallpox. The discovery demonstrates how techniques based on the use of synthetic DNA can be used to ...

Study ends debate over role of steroids in treating septic shock

January 19, 2018
The results from the largest ever study of septic shock could improve treatment for critically ill patients and save health systems worldwide hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

New approach could help curtail hospitalizations due to influenza infection

January 18, 2018
More than 700,000 Americans were hospitalized due to illnesses associated with the seasonal flu during the 2014-15 flu season, according to federal estimates. A radical new approach to vaccine development at UCLA may help ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.