Unraveling the Hygiene Hypothesis of helminthes and autoimmunity: origins, pathophysiology, and clinical applications

BMC Med. 2015 Apr 13;13:81. doi: 10.1186/s12916-015-0306-7.


Background: The Hygiene Hypothesis (HH) attributes the dramatic increase in autoimmune and allergic diseases observed in recent decades in Western countries to the reduced exposure to diverse immunoregulatory infectious agents. This theory has since largely been supported by strong epidemiological and experimental evidence.

Discussion: The analysis of these data along with the evolution of the Western world's microbiome enable us to obtain greater insight into microorganisms involved in the HH, as well as their regulatory mechanisms on the immune system. Helminthes and their derivatives were shown to have a protective role. Helminthes' broad immunomodulatory properties have already begun to be exploited in clinical trials of autoimmune diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and type-1 diabetes.

Summary: In this review, we will dissect the microbial actors thought to be involved in the HH as well as their immunomodulatory mechanisms as emphasized by experimental studies, with a particular attention on parasites. Thereafter, we will review the early clinical trials using helminthes' derivatives focusing on autoimmune diseases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Helminth / immunology*
  • Antigens, Helminth / immunology*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology*
  • Autoimmunity / immunology*
  • Helminthiasis / immunology
  • Humans
  • Hygiene Hypothesis*


  • Antibodies, Helminth
  • Antigens, Helminth