Schistosome Infection Intensity Is Inversely Related to Auto-Reactive Antibody Levels

Francisca Mutapi, Natsuko Imai, Norman Nausch, Claire D. Bourke, Nadine Rujeni, Kate M. Mitchell, Nicholas Midzi, Mark E. J. Woolhouse, Rick M. Maizels, Takafira Mduluza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In animal experimental models, parasitic helminth infections can protect the host from auto-immune diseases. We conducted a population-scale human study investigating the relationship between helminth parasitism and auto-reactive antibodies and the subsequent effect of anti-helminthic treatment on this relationship. Levels of antinuclear antibodies (ANA) and plasma IL-10 were measured by enzyme linked immunosorbent assay in 613 Zimbabweans (aged 2-86 years) naturally exposed to the blood fluke Schistosoma haematobium. ANA levels were related to schistosome infection intensity and systemic IL-10 levels. All participants were offered treatment with the anti-helminthic drug praziquantel and 102 treated schoolchildren (5-16 years) were followed up 6 months post-antihelminthic treatment. ANA levels were inversely associated with current infection intensity but were independent of host age, sex and HIV status. Furthermore, after allowing for the confounding effects of schistosome infection intensity, ANA levels were inversely associated with systemic levels of IL-10. ANA levels increased significantly 6 months after anti-helminthic treatment. Our study shows that ANA levels are attenuated in helminth-infected humans and that anti-helminthic treatment of helminth-infected people can significantly increase ANA levels. The implications of these findings are relevant for understanding both the aetiology of immune disorders mediated by auto-reactive antibodies and in predicting the long-term consequences of large-scale schistosomiasis control programs.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere19149
Pages (from-to)-
Number of pages7
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 6 May 2011


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