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Parasites Boost Women Fertility By Altering Immune System

Update Date: Nov 20, 2015 03:23 PM EST

Infection with the roundworm can increase a woman's fertility, findings of a recent study suggest.

The study suggests that infections with helminths, family of worms including the hookworm and the roundworm, can affect fertility by altering a woman's immune system, according to BBC. The findings were made based on a study of 986 indigenous women of Tsimane living in Bolivia.

"Hookworm infection tended to increase length of the intervals between births and that was consistent across all ages. But younger women infected with roundworm had shorter birth intervals." Aaron Blackwell, the study's lead author and an assistant professor in UC Santa Barbara Department of Anthropology, said in a press release.

Given the opposing effects of hookworm and roundworm, statistical extrapolation revealed that roundworm infection can result in two additional children while hookworm infested women had three less children. The community's women tend to have nine children on average.

"Although we don't know the precise mechanism behind these results, our findings are still compelling and suggest that immune modulation -- via our 'old friends' the intestinal worms -- can have far-reaching effects on the body, even though the findings may be less applicable in developed populations where women only have a few children over their lifetime," said co-author Michael Gurven.

The thought that such roundworm infections can be used in fertility treatments remains a far-fetched but an exciting possibility if more research throws light on the mechanism.

The study was published in the journal Science.

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