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Infection with intestinal helminths results in immunological changes that influence the odds of comorbid infections, and might also affect fecundity by inducing immunological states supportive of conception and pregnancy. Here we investigate associations between intestinal helminths and fertility in human females, utilizing nine years of longitudinal data from 986 Bolivian forger-horticulturalists, experiencing natural fertility and a 70% helminth prevalence. We find that different species of helminth are associated with opposing effects on fecundity. Infection with roundworm (Ascaris lumbricoides) is associated with earlier first births and shortened interbirth intervals, while infection with hookworm is associated with delayed first pregnancy and extended interbirth intervals. Thus, helminths may have important, and sometimes contradictory effects on human fertility, reflecting the physiological and immunological consequences of infection with particular species.


This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Science, volume 350, issue 6263, in 2015 following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version is available online at

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American Association for the Advancement of Science