How helminths go viral

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Science  01 Aug 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6196, pp. 517-518
DOI: 10.1126/science.1258443

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Research into infectious diseases is generally highly reductionist, focusing on the disease-causing agent while meticulously excluding extraneous factors, such as unrelated pathogens. But the real world is quite different, with multiple concurrent microorganisms (viruses, bacteria) and macro-organisms (parasites), each with differing dynamics and impacts on the host (1). Many of these agents are relatively neglected, especially those such as the helminth worms (see the photo). They also predominantly affect people in low-income tropical environments and influence susceptibility to a range of other infectious diseases (2). On pages 573 and 578 of this issue, Reese et al. (3) and Osborne et al. (4), respectively, provide fine detail on how helminth worms can substantially enhance and reactivate viral infection, with major health implications for tropical medicine.