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Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2010 Jan;10(1):3-12. doi: 10.1007/s11882-009-0085-3.

Chronic helminth infections protect against allergic diseases by active regulatory processes.

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Department of Parasitology, Leiden University Medical Center, Albinusdreef 2, Leiden, The Netherlands.


Developed countries are suffering from an epidemic rise in immunologic disorders, such as allergy-related diseases and certain autoimmunities. Several studies have demonstrated a negative association between helminth infections and inflammatory diseases (eg, allergy), providing a strong case for the involvement of helminth infections in this respect. However, some studies point in the opposite direction. The discrepancy may be explained by differences in frequency, dose, time, and type of helminth. In this review, new studies are discussed that may support the concept that chronic helminth infections in particular-but not acute infections-are associated with the expression of regulatory networks necessary for downmodulating allergic immune responses to harmless antigens. Furthermore, different components of regulatory networks are highlighted, such as the role of regulatory T and B cells, modulation of dendritic cells, early innate signals from structural cells (eg, epithelial cells), and their individual contributions to protection against allergic diseases. It is of great interest to define and characterize specific helminth molecules that have profound immunomodulatory capacities as targets for therapeutic application in the treatment or prophylaxis of allergic manifestations.

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