Regulation of allergy and autoimmunity in helminth infection

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Abstract

Parasitic infections are a major theme in the “hygiene hypothesis”, as allergies and autoimmune diseases are less prevalent in countries with higher burdens of helminths and other parasitic organisms. Helminths”—the grouping of multicellular worm parasistes including nematodes, cestodes and trematodes—tend to establish long-liver, chronic infections indicating successful down-modulation of the host immune system. In this review, we describe the intricate immunology of host-helminth interactions and how parasites manipulate immune responses to enhance their survival. In so doing, they often minimise immunopathology and, it is suggested, reduce host susceptibility to, and severity of allergic and autoimmune diseases. Studies on helminth-infected communities and individuals support the hypothesis that an immuno-regulatory network promoted by parasites extends its influence to limiting allergies. Experimental models are now probing more deeply into the area of immune modulation by helminths, and we discuss the likely mechanisms by which helminths could be establishing a strongly regulatory environment. Understanding and harnessing the modulatory capacity of helminths may uncover novel therapeutic interventions, mimicking and exploiting their evolution for our benefit. Parasitic infections are a major theme in the—“hygiene hypothesis”, as allergies and autoimmune diseases are less prevalent in countries with higher burdens of helminths and other parasitic organisms. Helminths”—the grouping of multicellular worm parasistes including nematodes, cestodes and trematodes—tend to establish long-lived, chronic infections indicating successful down-modulation of the host immune system. In this review, we describe the intricate immunology of host-helminth interactions and how parasites manipulate immune responses to enhance their survival. In so doing, they often minimise immunopathology and, it is suggested, reduce host susceptibility to, and severity of allergic and autoimmune diseases. Studies on helminth-infected communities and individuals support the hypothesis that an immuno-regulatory network promoted by parasites extends its influence to limiting allergies. Experimental models are now probing more deeply into the area of immune modulation by helminths, and we discuss the likely mechanisms by which helminths could be establishing a strongly regulatory environment. Understanding and harnessing the modulatory capacity of helminths may uncover novel therapeutic interventions, mimicking and exploiting their evolution for our benefit.