Helminth infections: protection from atopic disorders

Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2005 Jan;5(1):42-50. doi: 10.1007/s11882-005-0053-5.


Westernized countries are suffering from an epidemic rise in immunologic disorders, such as childhood allergy. A popular explanation is that the increased prevalence in allergy is due to a diminished or altered exposure to gut-dwelling microbes, resulting in a disordered immunoregulation. Various population studies have provided a strong case for the involvement of helminth infections in this respect. Detailed analysis of helminth-induced immune responses showed that helminths not only prime for polarized Th2 responses but also potently induce T-cell hyporesponsiveness. Recently, it has been demonstrated that helminths induce suppressed host immune responses by the priming for regulatory T cells. It is proposed that this regulatory T cell-inducing activity accounts for the protection observed in the development of allergic disorders. It would be interesting to define and characterize particular helminth molecules that have profound immunomodulatory capacities as a target for therapeutic application in the treatment or prophylaxis of allergic manifestations.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Allergens / adverse effects
  • Animals
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Helminthiasis / diagnosis
  • Helminthiasis / epidemiology*
  • Helminthiasis / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / diagnosis*
  • Hypersensitivity / epidemiology
  • Hypersensitivity / immunology
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sex Factors
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / physiology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Helper-Inducer / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Helper-Inducer / physiology


  • Allergens