Helminth infections: Protection from atopic disorders
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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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