Immuno-epidemiology of human geohelminthiasis: ecological and immunological determinants of worm burden

D. A. P. Bundya1 and G. F. Medleya1

a1 Welcome Trust Research Centre for Parasitic Infections, Imperial College, Prince Consort Road, London


The morbidity and transmission dynamics of geohelminthiases are determined by the patterns of infection intensity in the community. Understanding the determinants of these patterns requires a combination of field, laboratory and theoretical study. Studies of age-specific reinfection, and of the phenomenon of predisposition, indicate that the major determinant of convex age-intensity profiles and of heterogeneity in infection intensity is the rate of establishment of infection, rather than the rate of adult worm mortality. The rate of establishment is, in turn, determined by exposure to, and protection from, infection. The evidence indicates that exposure, at least to the orally-transmitted geohelminths, varies with age and is highly heterogeneous between hosts. The immune response in geohelminthiasis is vigorous, parasite-specific, hetero geneous between hosts, and both age and infection dose dependent, but has yet to be convincingly shown to be protective. Since the immune response is itself a function of exposure, unravelling the interaction between ecology and immunology as determinants of geohelminth worm burden will require simultaneous assessment of both processes via immuno epidemiological study.