Helminths and HIV infection: epidemiological observations on immunological hypotheses
Parasitic helminths have co-evolved with the mammalian immune system. Current hypotheses suggest that immunological stimulation in the presence of helminths is balanced by immuno-regulation and by the broad spectrum of mechanisms possessed by helminths for countering the host immune response. The degree to which this balance is perfected, and the mechanisms by which this is achieved, vary between helminth species; we suggest that this is reflected not only in the degree of pathology induced by helminths but also in a variety of relationships with HIV infection and HIV disease. Available epidemiological data regarding interactions between helminths and HIV are largely observational; results are variable and generally inconclusive. Well designed, controlled intervention studies are required to provide definitive information on the species-specific nature of these interactions and on the advantages, disadvantages and optimal timing of de-worming in relation to HIV infection.