The impact of environmental infections (parasites) on MS activity

Mult Scler. 2011 Oct;17(10):1162-9. doi: 10.1177/1352458511418027.


MS incidence has significantly increased during the second half of the 20th century, generating considerable interest in analyzing the basis for this rise in the developed world. Particular emphasis is being placed on the role infections might play in exacerbating or preventing disease onset. Epidemiological data suggest that improvement in sanitation conditions and reduced exposure to infection might explain, at least in part, these changes. The hygiene hypothesis is not new and is currently used to explain the increasing incidence of allergies and other autoimmune diseases. Because helminths are powerful modulators of host immunity, some authors hypothesize that reduced parasite exposure due to improved hygiene conditions may favor MS development. We discuss epidemiological, experimental, clinical and molecular data supporting the protective role of helminthes against MS. Better understanding of host-parasite interactions caused by specific parasite molecules with immunomodulatory effects will help combat allergies and autoimmune disease without the price of untoward infection as a side-effect.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Environment
  • Helminthiasis / epidemiology
  • Helminthiasis / immunology*
  • Host-Parasite Interactions / immunology
  • Humans
  • Hygiene Hypothesis*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / epidemiology
  • Multiple Sclerosis / immunology*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / parasitology*