Asthma and chronic sinusitis are inexplicably common airway diseases that are linked to atopy and allergic inflammation. T helper type 2 (Th2) cells and the associated cytokines are believed to play crucial pathogenic roles in asthma, but the environmental factors that instigate allergic airway disease remain poorly understood. Environmental proteinases are highly allergenic and are candidate inducers of airway Th2 responses. Determining the proteinases and their sources that are relevant to airway disease, however, remains challenging. In this Opinion, we summarize the evidence that implicates fungi as both a relevant source of allergenic proteinases and a potential cause of asthma, atopy and chronic sinusitis through airway infection. Clarification of the extrinsic causes of these processes will markedly improve diagnosis, prognosis and therapy.
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