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WormsParasitic helminths reside in multiple tissues of the infected host, causing immune responses that are supported by the activities of innate immune cells.  Image of hemotoxylin and eosin-stained lung tissue from mice infected with the rodent parasite Nippostrongylus brasiliensis courtesy of Dr. Elia Tait Wojno.

Innate immune cells during helminth infection

Intestinal helminth parasites infect over 2 billion people worldwide and are a significant health concern for livestock and companion animals. Parasitic diseases are associated with anemia, malnutrition, and a failure to thrive. The immune system protects us from parasites in the intestine by helping to promote inflammation and changes to intestinal tissues that render the environment inhospitable for the parasite, resulting in parasite expulsion. However, how the immune response to parasites is regulated and exactly how the immune system interfaces with intestinal tissues to achieve parasite clearance remains incompletely described.

Recent studies have shown that rare cells of the immune system, referred to as innate immune cells, can play a key role in initiating and maintaining inflammation in the intestine that leads to the expulsion of parasites. Cell types such as eosinophils, basophils, group 2 innate lymphoid cells, and dendritic cells are important innate cells that perform key tasks in the fight against parasitic invaders.

The Tait Wojno laboratory is currently engaged in multiple projects aimed at developing a better understanding of how innate immune cell types contribute to inflammation in response to parasitic worms. This work will also hopefully inform the development of new management strategies for helminth infection in humans, livestock, and companion animals.