Hypersensitivity pneumonitis

Allergy. 2009 Mar;64(3):322-34. doi: 10.1111/j.1398-9995.2009.01949.x. Epub 2009 Feb 6.


The first few cases of hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP) were described in the early 20th century in farmers exposed to moldy hay or straw. As then, HP has been ascribed to multiple inhaled antigens found in a large variety of environmental settings. Hypersensitivity pneumonitis results from an exaggerated immune response, which gives rise to acute infection-like symptoms or to progressive, sometimes irreversible lung damage. The diagnosis is based on a combination of clinical characteristics of the disease. Clinical diagnostic criteria have recently been published. The immune mechanisms leading to HP are still incompletely understood. Initially, believed to be a classes III and IV immune response, we now have a clearer understanding of the complex inflammatory events involved. These include the release of pro inflammatory cytokines and a decrease in the immune control mechanisms via surfactant, dendritic and T-regulatory cells. Despite the improved understanding, the treatment and outcome of HP have not changed. Oral corticosteroids remain the only effective drugs and contact withdrawal constitutes the ideal solution. If unchecked, HP can lead to irreversible lung damage in the form of fibrosis or emphysema, respiratory insufficiency and even death.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alveolitis, Extrinsic Allergic / diagnosis*
  • Alveolitis, Extrinsic Allergic / epidemiology*
  • Alveolitis, Extrinsic Allergic / therapy*
  • Animals
  • Humans