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Lancet. 2000 Nov 18;356(9243):1723-7.

Decreased atopy in children infected with Schistosoma haematobium: a role for parasite-induced interleukin-10.

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Department of Parasitology, Leiden University Medical Centre, The Netherlands.



Most of the effort directed at understanding the role infections have in preventing allergy has focused on bacteria and viruses and their ability to divert the immune system towards T-helper-1 responses and away from proallergic T-helper-2 responses. However, helminth infections, highly prevalent in large parts of the developing world, where allergy is uncommon, stimulate strong T-helper-2 responses. We investigated the influence of chronic helminth infections on the prevalence of atopy and aimed to understand the relation at a detailed immunological level.


520 Gabonese schoolchildren were tested for skin reaction to house-dust mite and other allergens, for Schistosoma haematobium eggs in urine, and for microfilariae in blood samples. Total and mite-specific IgE antibodies were measured. A subsample selected on the basis of their skin test to house-dust mite received detailed immunological investigations.


Children with urinary schistosomiasis had a lower prevalence of a positive skin reaction to house-dust mite than those free of this infection (odds ratio 0.32 [95% CI 0.16-0.63]). The degree of sensitisation to house-dust mite could not explain this difference in skin-prick positivity. Schistosome-antigen-specific concentrations of interleukin-10 were significantly higher in infected children, and higher specific concentrations of this anti-inflammatory cytokine were negatively associated with the outcome of skin-test reactivity to mite (0.53 [0.30-0.96]). No association between polyclonal IgE antibodies and skin-test results was found.


The anti-inflammatory cytokine, interleukin-10, induced in chronic schistosomiasis, appears central to suppressing atopy in African children.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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