Old friends and friendly fire: Pregnancy, hookworm infection, and anemia among tropical horticulturalists

Amy S. Anderson, Benjamin C. Trumble, Carmen Hové, Thomas S. Kraft, Hillard Kaplan, Michael Gurven, Aaron D. Blackwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Objectives: Despite public health concerns about hookworm infection in pregnancy, little is known about immune profiles associated with hookworm (Necator americanus and Ancylostoma duodenale) infection during pregnancy. Fetal tolerance requirements may constrain maternal immune response to hookworm, thereby increasing susceptibility to new infections or increasing hemoglobin loss. To explore this possibility, we study systemic immune response and hemoglobin levels in a natural fertility population with endemic helminthic infection. Methods: We used Bayesian multilevel models to analyze mixed longitudinal data on hemoglobin, hookworm infection, reproductive state, eosinophils, and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) to examine the effects of pregnancy and hookworm infection on nonspecific inflammation, cellular parasite response, and hemoglobin among 612 Tsimane women aged 15-45 (1016 observations). Results: Pregnancy is associated with lower eosinophil counts and lower eosinophil response to hookworm, particularly during the second and third trimesters. Both hookworm and pregnancy are associated with higher ESR, with evidence for an interaction between the two causing further increases in the first trimester. Pregnancy is moderately associated with higher odds of hookworm infection (OR: 1.23, 95% CI: 0.83 to 1.83). Pregnancy and hookworm both decrease hemoglobin and may interact to accentuate this effect in the first-trimester of pregnancy (Interaction: β: −0.30 g/dL; CI: −0.870 to 0.24). Conclusions: Our findings are consistent with a possible trade-off between hookworm immunity and successful pregnancy, and with the suggestion that hookworm and pregnancy may have synergistic effects, particularly in the first trimester.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere23337
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology
  • Genetics


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