Allergic and other immune-mediated diseases are complex disease states determined by interplay between host genetics and environmental factors. Environmental changes such as fewer infections and reduced exposure to microbial products have been suggested to have led to insufficient regulation of Th1 and Th2 immune responses, causing an increased incidence of inflammatory diseases. The objective of the present study was to investigate the effect of poor living environmental conditions on mitogen-induced production of cytokines (Th1 and Th2) by peripheral blood leukocytes in children living in urban Brazil and investigate the role of IL-10 in modifying this effect. Our data showed that the proportion of children producing Th1 and Th2 cytokines was lower among those with poor living conditions and that this finding was stronger in children producing IL-10. These results provide a possible biologic explanation for the temporal trends of increasing risk of inflammatory diseases observed in populations living in affluent countries.
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