Immunity, immunoregulation and the ecology of trichuriasis and ascariasis


J. E. Bradley, School of Biology, Nottingham University, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK (e-mail:


Immune responses to human roundworm (Ascaris lumbricoides) and whipworm (Trichuris trichiura) and their role in controlling worm populations are reviewed. Recent immunoepidemiological data implicate Th2-mediated responses in limiting A. lumbricoides and T. trichiura populations. Reinfection studies further suggest that IL-5 cytokine responses are negatively associated with adult recruitment in T. trichiura but not A. lumbricoides and may therefore be involved in negative intraspecific and interspecific interactions mediated through the host immune system. The importance of inducible immunoregulatory networks in the ecology of the host–parasite relationship is considered, with particular regard to possible manipulative strategies by the parasites. This aspect of the worms’ interaction with the host immune system is both poorly known and potentially central to an understanding of parasite population dynamics and the evolutionary pressures that have shaped present-day host–parasite associations. Some possible implications of worm-mediated immunomodulation for the occurrence of bystander infectious diseases in human populations and the management of de-worming programmes are also discussed.