Current Allergy and Asthma Reports

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 42–50 | Cite as

Helminth infections: Protection from atopic disorders

  • Hermelijn H. Smits
  • Franca C. Hartgers
  • Maria Yazdanbakhsh


Westernized countries are suffering from an epidemic rise in immunologic disorders, such as childhood allergy. A popular explanation is that the increased prevalence in allergy is due to a diminished or altered exposure to gut-dwelling microbes, resulting in a disordered immunoregulation. Various population studies have provided a strong case for the involvement of helminth infections in this respect. Detailed analysis of helminth-induced immune responses showed that helminths not only prime for polarized Th2 responses but also potently induce T-cell hyporesponsiveness. Recently, it has been demonstrated that helminths induce suppressed host immune responses by the priming for regulatory T cells. It is proposed that this regulatory T cell-inducing activity accounts for the protection observed in the development of allergic disorders. It would be interesting to define and characterize particular helminth molecules that have profound immunomodulatory capacities as a target for therapeutic application in the treatment or prophylaxis of allergic manifestations.


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Copyright information

© Current Science Inc 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hermelijn H. Smits
    • 1
  • Franca C. Hartgers
    • 1
  • Maria Yazdanbakhsh
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ParasitologyLeiden University Medical CenterZA LeidenThe Netherlands

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