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Impact of filarial infections on coincident intracellular pathogens: Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Plasmodium falciparum

Metenou, Simona,*; Babu, Subashb,*; Nutman, Thomas B.a

Current Opinion in HIV & AIDS: May 2012 - Volume 7 - Issue 3 - p 231–238
doi: 10.1097/COH.0b013e3283522c3d
CO-INFECTION OF POVERTY RELATED DISEASES WITH WORMS: Edited by Alison Elliott and Maria Yazdanbakhsh

Purpose of review: To examine the consequences of the immune modulation seen in chronic filarial infection on responses to intracellular pathogens (and their antigens) that are often co-endemic with filarial infections, namely Plasmodium and Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

Recent findings: Much of the recent data on filaria/mycobacteria or filaria/Plasmodium co-infection has focused on the modulation of mycobacteria-specific or malaria-specific responses by chronic filarial infection. As such, filarial infections very clearly alter the magnitude and quality of the mycobacteria-specific or malaria-specific cytokine responses, responses that have been typically associated with control of these intracellular pathogens.

Summary: Although phylogenetically distinct, mycobacteria and Plasmodium spp. often share the same geographical niche with filarial infections. The complex interplay between filarial parasites that are associated with immunomodulation and those microbial pathogens that require a proinflammatory or unmodulated response for their control is easily demonstrable ex vivo, but whether this interplay affects disease outcome in tuberculosis or malaria remains an open question.

aHelminth Immunology Section, Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Bethesda, Maryland, USA

bNIAID/TRC (now NIRT) ICER, Chennai, India

*Simon Metenou and Subash Babu contributed equally to the writing of this article.

Correspondence to Thomas B. Nutman, Building 4, Room B1-03, 4 Center Dr, Bethesda, MD 20892-0425, USA. Tel: +1 301 496 5398; e-mail:

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.