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Immunol Cell Biol. 1996 Dec;74(6):564-74.

Defence against the immune barrage: helminth survival strategies.

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  • 1CSIRO Division of Animal Health, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia.


Parasites have generated a range of countermeasures against the host immune system which allows their survival long enough for reproduction to occur. Parasite subsistence is enhanced by evasion of the immune response utilizing mechanisms such as antigenic variation of exposed immunogenic proteins, shedding of surface proteins which are the target of an immune response, and protease production to neutralise specific anti-parasite immune components. Recent advances in the fields of immunology and parasitology have highlighted a range of mechanisms by which the parasite actively modulates the immune response to allow survival. Parasite factors can directly suppress the function of certain subsets of immune cells as well as stimulating other cell populations which have suppressive activity. Strategies such as the skewing of the type 1-type 2 cytokine profile to that of a less appropriate response, and the mimicry of host immune regulatory proteins are becoming more widely acknowledged as means by which helminths enhance their survival. An illustration of the extent by which parasites can exploit host immune components is emphasized by the use of host cytokines as parasite growth factors. This review will examine some of the strategies developed by helminths which enables them not only to survive in the host, but also to prosper.

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