Microbial regulation of allergic responses to food

Semin Immunopathol. 2012 Sep;34(5):671-88. doi: 10.1007/s00281-012-0337-5. Epub 2012 Sep 1.


The incidence of food allergy in developed countries is rising at a rate that cannot be attributed to genetic variation alone. In this review, we discuss the environmental factors that may contribute to the increasing prevalence of potentially fatal anaphylactic responses to food. Decreased exposure to enteric infections due to advances in vaccination and sanitation, along with the adoption of high-fat (Western) diets, antibiotic use, Cesarean birth, and formula feeding of infants, have all been implicated in altering the enteric microbiome away from its ancestral state. This collection of resident commensal microbes performs many important physiological functions and plays a central role in the development of the immune system. We hypothesize that alterations in the microbiome interfere with immune system maturation, resulting in impairment of IgA production, reduced abundance of regulatory T cells, and Th2-skewing of baseline immune responses which drive aberrant responses to innocuous (food) antigens.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Anaphylaxis* / epidemiology
  • Anaphylaxis* / immunology
  • Anaphylaxis* / microbiology
  • Animals
  • Antigens / immunology
  • Developed Countries
  • Food Hypersensitivity* / epidemiology
  • Food Hypersensitivity* / immunology
  • Food Hypersensitivity* / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin A / immunology
  • Incidence
  • Risk Factors
  • Th2 Cells / immunology


  • Antigens
  • Immunoglobulin A