I just finished reading a pretty dense – but seriously interesting– paper[i] describing research on the interactions between the microbiota and multiple species of helminths in wild rodents.
Their findings are fascinating.
The authors point out that since our microbiota is so crucial to health (in that it helps absorb and generate vitamins, regulates cognition and behavior, protects us from pathogens, is fundamental in the development of the immune system and the prevention of autoimmune disease), the implications of these findings may be vast. In fact, it is possible (actually likely) that helminths’ ability to modulate our immune systems may be the result of both direct effect on our immune systems and indirect, via changes in the microbiota.
A few other particularly interesting points in this paper:
Whether or not there is an optimal type of helminth or helminths to exactly modify the human microbiota is decades of research in the future. In the meantime, we do know at least that the presence of helminths improves the quality of the gut microbiota in humans.
[i] Kreisinger, J, Bastien, G, Hauffe, HC, Marchesi, J, Perkins, SE. Interactions between multiple helminths and the gut microbiota in wild rodents. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. 2015:370:20140295.