The innate allergenicity of helminth parasites

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Abstract

Helminth parasites are well known to induce an immune response in their hosts characterised by elevated IgE, peripheral blood or local tissue eosinophilia, and in some cases, intestinal mastocytosis. This immunological response has a strong T-helper 2 (Th2) cytokine bias and is reminescent of the immunological constellation found in allergic diseases. However, the molecular forces driving the Th2 response to helminth parasites are still not understood. By using the human hookworm parasite Necator americanus as an example, the authors of the current article propose that in the course of its life cycle, this parasite becomes innately allergenic through the secretion of a molecular array designed to promote tissue migration and homing, feeding and survival against immunological attack. This complex array comprises proteases, lectins and other classes of molecules. Subsequent immunological and physiological events seemingly protect the host from both the allergic sequelae of exposure to environmental allergens and, moreover, from the parasite itself.