Deficiencies in selenium and/or vitamin E lower the resistance of mice to Heligmosomoides polygyrus infections

Allen Smith, Kathleen B. Madden, Karla J. Au Yeung, Aiping Zhao, Justin Elfrey, Fred Finkelman, Orville Levander, Terez Shea-Donohue, Joseph F. Urban

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Previous studies have shown that deficiencies in selenium (Se) and/or vitamin E (VE) can exacerbate the infectivity and pathogenesis of coxsackievirus B3 and influenza. Both Se and VE play a role in immune function and antioxidant defense. To determine whether these deficiencies would affect the normal course of infection with a metazoan parasite, mice were made deficient in Se and/or VE and inoculated with the gastrointestinal nematode parasite Heligmosomoides polygyrus. Both primary and secondary infections were assessed. Although the course of a primary infection with H. polygyrus was unaffected by diet, diets deficient in Se, VE, and both Se and VE (Se/VE double-deficiency) all caused delayed adult worm expulsion and increased fecundity during a secondary infection; suggesting an impaired intestinal response. H. polygyrus-induced IL-4 levels were diet-independent; but Se/VE double-deficiency blocked the H. polygyrus-induced IL-4 receptor-associated decrease in sodium-dependent glucose absorption in the jejunum that contributes to worm expulsion. In contrast, Se/VE double-deficiency had no effect on the infection-induced, IL-4R-associated increase in epithelial cell permeability that accompanies the infection. These results suggest that both Se and VE are required for specific IL-4-related changes in intestinal physiology that promote host protection against H. polygyrus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)830-836
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2005
Externally publishedYes



  • Gastrointestinal
  • Immunity
  • Parasite
  • Selenium
  • Vitamin E

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Food Science

Cite this

Smith, A., Madden, K. B., Au Yeung, K. J., Zhao, A., Elfrey, J., Finkelman, F., ... Urban, J. F. (2005). Deficiencies in selenium and/or vitamin E lower the resistance of mice to Heligmosomoides polygyrus infections. Journal of Nutrition, 135(4), 830-836.