Short report: do intestinal nematodes increase the risk for multibacillary leprosy?

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  • 1 Núcleo de Doenças Infecciosas and Pathology Department, Centro Biomédico, Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo, Vitória, Brazil.

Intestinal helminths are known to subvert the host's immune response towards a Th2 response, which in turn may lead to both eosinophilia and high immunoglobulin E titers often associated with these parasites. Mycobacterium leprae infection may lead to different clinical and pathological forms. Multibacillary forms are associated with Th2 cytokines, whereas paucibacillary forms are associated with Th1 cytokines. We report a significantly higher frequency of intestinal helminthic infections in patients with the lepromatous form, a multibacillary form of leprosy (odds ratio, 2.99; 95% confidence interval, 1.82-4.95; P = 0.006) when compared with patients with paucibacillary leprosy or to a control group without leprosy. A direct correlation was also found between mycobacterial index and the frequency of intestinal helminths. Our results suggest that the presence of intestinal helminths may facilitate the establishment of M. leprae infection or the progression to more severe forms of leprosy.

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