Losing weight helps in intestinal worm control

Want to rid yourself of intestinal worms? Try losing weight!

Weighing scale
Starving a worm infection may be a good idea

Normally if we eat less and our weight drops, our immunity drops as well. However a new research indicates that our immune strength to deal with intestinal infections may in fact be enhanced due to weight loss

Scientists from The University of Manchester found that weight loss plays an beneficial role in the body's ability to fight off intestinal worms.

Their study published in the journal PLOS Pathogens indicates that the immune system hijacks the natural feeding pathways thereby causing weight loss. The weight loss activates defense mechanisms to correctly and quickly expel the worms.

The research team studied the immune response system in mice that were lacking immune cells and feeding hormones [mimicking the first step in weight loss]. The mice were infected with the round worm parasite Trichinella spiralis.

They observed that the body threw out the worm in two steps. First a hormone that results in weight-loss goes up. As a result, another hormone leptin involved in the immune system goes down.

To investigate if this reduction in leptin was helpful, the researchers restored the leptin levels in the mice during the worm infection. Mice with restored leptin levels could not expel the parasite in time...taking quite a while to effectively eject the worms.

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".

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