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Med Hypotheses. 2011 Oct;77(4):494-504. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2011.06.019. Epub 2011 Jul 7.

Reconstitution of the human biome as the most reasonable solution for epidemics of allergic and autoimmune diseases.

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  • 1Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Systems and Integrative Neuroscience Group, Duke University, Durham, NC 27710, United States.

Abstract

A wide range of hyperimmune-associated diseases plague post-industrial society, with a prevalence and impact that is staggering. Strong evidence points towards a loss of helminths from the ecosystem of the human body (the human biome) as the most important factor in this epidemic. Helminths, intestinal worms which are largely eradicated by elements of post-industrial culture including toilets and water treatment facilities, have an otherwise ubiquitous presence in vertebrates, and have co-evolved with the immune system. Not only do helminths discourage allergic and autoimmune reactions by diverting the immune system away from these pathologic processes and stimulating host regulatory networks, helminths release a variety of factors which down-modulate the immune system. A comprehensive view of hyperimmune-related disease based on studies in immunology, parasitology, evolutionary biology, epidemiology, and neurobiology indicates that the effects of biome depletion may not yet be fully realized, and may have an unexpectedly broad impact on many areas of human biology, including cognition. Fortunately, colonization with helminths results in a cure of numerous autoimmune and allergic diseases in laboratory rodents, and clinical studies in humans have indicated their utility for treatment of both multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease. Based on these considerations, commitment of considerable resources toward understanding the effects of "biome depletion" and systematically evaluating the most effective approach toward biome reconstitution is strongly encouraged.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

PMID:
21741180
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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