2 Dec 2021

Helminths, immune response and gut microbiota: Prof Nicola Harris featured in The Scientist

The Scientist features Prof Nicola Harris's research on intestinal
parasites in an article,"Return of the Worms"

Professor Nicola Harris works on the complex relationship between our gut microbiome, intestinal parasites - helminths - and our immune system. Her research has been featured in The Scientist.

Catherine Offord writes:

"Increasingly seen as a mediator of human health in its own right, with hypothesized effects on everything from intestinal inflammation and immune development to cancer progression and mental health, the gut microbiome could also be an important piece of a worm’s relationship with its host.

"Nicola Harris, an intestinal immunologist at Monash University in Australia, has been delving into this tripartite relationship for years now. Part of her work examines how worms react to the gut microbiota; some of the team’s latest mouse data suggest that at least some worm species are “much, much happier without any bacteria around it at all,” Harris says. Another facet concerns the microbiome’s role in mediating helminth-host interactions—an issue with particular relevance for understanding the possible therapeutic effects of helminth infection. Indeed, work by several groups suggests that the microbiota seems to be required for some of the beneficial consequences of helminth infection. In one study, for example, Harris, Maizels, and colleagues reported that mice that were inoculated with H. polygyrus before being infected with a respiratory virus typically showed less lung inflammation than helminth-negative mice given the same virus, but this protective effect disappeared when the experiments were repeated with germ-free mice."

See full article by Catherine Offord, "Return of the worms", 1 Dec. The Scientist.

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