The incidence of autoimmune diseases has risen throughout the last half a century, mostly in the industrialized world. Helminths and their derivatives were found to have a protective role in autoimmunity and inflammatory conditions, as they manipulate the immune network, attenuating the host's cellular and humoral responses. Indeed, various helminth species used in several human and animal models were shown to limit inflammatory activity in a variety of diseases including inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. Our review will focus on the main mechanisms by which helminths and their secreted molecules modulate the host's immune system. The main pathways induce a shift from Th1 to Th2 phenotype, accelerate T regulatory and B regulatory phenotypes, and attenuate the levels of the inflammatory cytokines, leading to a tolerable scenario.
Keywords: Autoimmune diseases; Cytokines; Helminths; Immune system; Inflammation; Mechanisms.
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