Background: The poor correlation between allergen-specific immunoglobulin E (asIgE) and clinical signs of allergy in helminth infected populations suggests that helminth infections could protect against allergy by uncoupling asIgE from its effector mechanisms. We investigated this hypothesis in Ugandan schoolchildren coinfected with Schistosoma mansoni and hookworm.
Methods: Skin prick test (SPT) sensitivity to house dust mite allergen (HDM) and current wheeze were assessed pre-anthelmintic treatment. Nonspecific (anti-IgE), helminth-specific, and HDM-allergen-specific basophil histamine release (HR), plus helminth- and HDM-specific IgE and IgG4 responses were measured pre- and post-treatment.
Results: Nonspecific- and helminth-specific-HR, and associations between helminth-specific IgE and helminth-specific HR increased post-treatment. Hookworm infection appeared to modify the relationship between circulating levels of HDM-IgE and HR: a significant positive association was observed among children without detectable hookworm infection, but no association was observed among infected children. In addition, hookworm infection was associated with a significantly reduced risk of wheeze, and IgG4 to somatic adult hookworm antigen with a reduced risk of HDM-SPT sensitivity. There was no evidence for S. mansoni infection having a similar suppressive effect on HDM-HR or symptoms of allergy.
Conclusions: Basophil responsiveness appears suppressed during chronic helminth infection; at least in hookworm infection, this suppression may protect against allergy.
Keywords: Schistosoma mansoni; allergy; basophils; helminth infection; histamine release; hookworm; house dust mite; schistosomiasis; skin prick test; wheeze.
© The Author 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.