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Int J Parasitol. 2007 Apr;37(5):457-64. Epub 2006 Dec 28.

Helminths as governors of immune-mediated inflammation.

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Department of Internal Medicine, University of Iowa, Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, 200 Hawkins Drive, Iowa City, IA 52242-1009, USA.


Immune-mediated diseases (e.g. inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, multiple sclerosis and autoimmune diabetes) are increasing in prevalence and emerge as populations adopt meticulously hygienic lifestyles. This change in lifestyles precludes exposure to helminths (parasitic worms). Loss of natural helminth exposure removes a previously universal Th2 and regulatory immune biasing imparted by these organisms. Helminths protect animals from developing immune-mediated diseases (colitis, reactive airway disease, encephalitis and diabetes). Clinical trials show that exposure to helminths can reduce disease activity in patients with ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease. This paper summarises work by multiple groups demonstrating that colonization with helminths alters immune reactivity and protects against disease from dysregulated inflammation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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