Role in Allergic Diseases of Immunological Cross-Reactivity between Allergens and Homologues of Parasite Proteins

Crit Rev Immunol. 2016;36(1):1-11. doi: 10.1615/CritRevImmunol.2016016545.


Implied under the rubric of the hygiene hypothesis is that helminth infection can protect against allergic disease. It is well known that helminths induce processes associated with type 2 immune responses, but they also induce important regulatory responses that can modulate these type 2-associated responses-modulation that influences responses to bystander antigens including allergens. Indeed, most epidemiological studies demonstrate a beneficial effect of helminth infection on atopy, but there are also convincing data to demonstrate that helminth infection can precipitate or worsen allergic inflammation/disease. Reasons for these disparate findings are much debated, but there is a school of thought that suggests that helminth-triggered type 2-associated responses, including IgE to cross-reactive aeroallergens, can offset the regulatory effects imposed by the same organisms. The cross-reactivity among helminths and allergenic tropomyosins dominated the antigen/allergen cross-reactivity field, but recent data suggest that cross-reactivity is much more common than previously appreciated. It has been demonstrated that a high degree of molecular similarity exists between allergens and helminth proteins. Thus, an understanding of the mechanisms underlying the response induced by helminth infection and their impact on the induction of allergic disease in the host are critical for designing therapies using iatrogenic infections or parasite products to treat inflammatory diseases and for developing vaccines against helminth parasites.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / immunology*
  • Animals
  • Helminthiasis / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / immunology
  • Protozoan Proteins / immunology*


  • Allergens
  • Protozoan Proteins