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Nematode Infection Controls Obesity and Modulates Body Weight and Metabolism

By BiotechDaily International staff writers
Posted on 09 May 2013
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In an interesting combination of low and high technology approaches to the control and treatment of obesity, a recent study suggested that infection with parasitic nematodes (roundworms) could suppress the chronic inflammation associated with obesity and modulate body weight and metabolism.

Obesity is associated with a chronic low-grade inflammation characterized by increased levels of proinflammatory cytokines that are implicated in metabolic dysfunction. Nematode infection, which elevates host immune Th2-cells and related type two cytokines, has been used in ancient medicine and is currently under clinical investigation for treatment for diseases associated with the relevant cytokines, including inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, and allergies

Investigators at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (Baltimore, USA) examined the possibility of using nematode infection to treat obesity. They worked with several strains of mice that were fed normal or high-fat diets.

They reported in the March 18, 2013, online edition of the journal Infection and Immunity that normal size mice infected with the nematode Nippostrongyrus brasiliensis fed a high-fat diet gained 15% percent less weight than control animals that were not infected. Mice that were already obese when infected lost roughly 13% of their body weight within 10 days. Infected animals were found to have decreased fasting blood glucose levels and reduced incidence of fatty liver disease.

"The levels of insulin and leptin also dropped, indicating that the mice restored their sensitivities to both hormones," said senior author Dr. Aiping Zhao, associate professor of radiation oncology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "Leptin moderates appetite. As with too much insulin, too high a level of leptin results in insensitivity, thus contributing to obesity and metabolic syndrome."

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University of Maryland School of Medicine

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