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Is Weight Loss a Beneficial Symptom of Gastrointestinal Disorder?

Update Date: Jan 18, 2013 08:38 AM EST

For all those who are worried about their weight loss when suffering from a gastrointestinal disorder, here's news that may bring relief. Scientists have found that weight loss is actually a defense mechanism of the body to combat and remove the intestinal worms.

The scientists found that when a person is suffering from gastrointestinal pain due to worms, the immune system takes over the intestinal tract and travels down to remove the intestinal worms, so weight loss occurs as a result of the process.

Approximately 25 percent people around the world suffer from diseases by gastrointestinal parasites, and weight loss is a common symptom. The reason for weight loss and the factors controlling it is still unknown.

For their research, the scientists designed a mouse which did not have immune cells and feeding hormones. Then, Trichinella spiralis, commonly known as the round worm, was introduced in its body. They observed that in order to combat the parasite, the feeding cycle of the mouse was reduced; this then resulted in reduced weight and fat deposits, which in turn reduced the level of the hormone leptin which affects immune response.

To confirm the association of leptin with immune response and determine whether the effect of the former on the latter is positive or negative, the scientists then artificially introduced leptin in the mouse's body. They found that the process of removal of the worms was delayed on leptin administration.

"We were quite surprised by what we found during this study. Normally weight loss is associated with a negative immune response but this appears to suggest just the opposite that the immune driven weight loss was actually beneficial to the mouse's ability to resolve an infection and get rid of the worm," Dr. John Worthington from the Faculty of Life Sciences, who carried out the research, was quoted as saying in Medical Xpress.

"Our study provides novel insights into how the immune system interacts with feeding pathways during intestinal inflammation. We hope it will help us to design new treatments for the many millions of people who suffer from parasitic infections of the gut," Dr. Worthington added.

The research was done by scientists from the Manchester Immunology Group and the Institute of Inflammation and Repair, both falling under The University of Manchester, and was published in the journal PLOS pathogens.

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