The last few decades have seen a marked increase in the global prevalence of allergic diseases particularly among children. Among the factors attributed to this rise has been reduced exposure to pathogens during childhood leading to insufficient maturation of the regulatory arm of developing immune systems. Over the years, a number of epidemiological studies have observed an inverse relationship between parasitic worm (helminth) infections and allergies. The purpose of this review is to highlight insights from population studies conducted among children published between 2008 and 2013 that explore the complex dynamics between helminth infections and allergies. These insights include the effect of anthelmintic treatment on allergic responses, an elucidation of immune mechanisms and an examination of helminth-induced immunoglobulin E cross-reactivity. A better understanding of the relationship between helminths and allergies is imperative as research directions move toward harnessing the therapeutic potential of helminths and their products in the treatment of allergic disorders.
Keywords: anthelmintic treatment; asthma; atopy; eczema; helminths; immune mechanisms; immunoglobulin E cross-reactivity; rhinoconjunctivitis; skin prick testing; urbanization.
© 2013 John Wiley & Sons A/S. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.