More than half of the described species of the phylum Nematoda are considered parasitic, making them one of the most successful groups of parasites. Nematodes are capable of inhabiting a wide variety of niches. A vast array of vertebrate animals, insects, and plants are all identified as potential hosts for nematode parasitization. To invade these hosts successfully, parasitic nematodes must be able to protect themselves from the efficiency and potency of the host immune system. Innate immunity comprises the first wave of the host immune response, and in vertebrate animals it leads to the induction of the adaptive immune response. Nematodes have evolved elegant strategies that allow them to evade, suppress, or modulate host immune responses in order to persist and spread in the host. Nematode immunomodulation involves the secretion of molecules that are capable of suppressing various aspects of the host immune response in order to promote nematode invasion. Immunomodulatory mechanisms can be identified in parasitic nematodes infecting insects, plants, and mammals and vary greatly in the specific tactics by which the parasites modify the host immune response. Nematode-derived immunomodulatory effects have also been shown to affect, negatively or positively, the outcome of some concurrent diseases suffered by the host. Understanding nematode immunomodulatory actions will potentially reveal novel targets that will in turn lead to the development of effective means for the control of destructive nematode parasites.
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