In the developed world, declining prevalence of parasitic infections correlates with increased incidence of allergic and autoimmune disorders. Current treatments for these chronic inflammatory conditions have little to no effect on their prevalence and are referred to as "controllers" rather than cures. There has been limited success in therapeutically targeting allergic and autoimmune pathways, leaving an unmet need for development of effective anti-inflammatories. We discuss the benefit of hookworm infections and the parasite's ability to condition the immune system to prevent allergic asthma and inflammatory bowel diseases. We then examine the immunomodulatory properties of selected hookworm-derived proteins in these two models of inflammation. While hookworm protein therapy has yet to be fully exploited, the identification of these proteins and the mechanisms by which they skew the immune system will provide new avenues for controlling and optimally reversing key pathological processes important in allergic and inflammatory bowel diseases.
Copyright © 2012 Australian Society for Parasitology Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.