Human Helminths and Allergic Disease: The Hygiene Hypothesis and Beyond

Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2016 Oct 5;95(4):746-753. doi: 10.4269/ajtmh.16-0348. Epub 2016 Aug 29.


There is much debate about the interaction between helminths and allergic disease. The "Hygiene Hypothesis," a very popular concept among scientists and the lay public, states that infections, especially during childhood, can protect against allergic diseases. Indeed, helminth infections are known to induce regulatory responses in the host that can help the control of inflammation (including allergic inflammation). However, these infections also induce type-2-associated immune responses including helminth-specific IgE that can cross-react against environmental allergens and mediate IgE-driven effector responses. Thus, it is the delicate balance between the parasites' anti- and pro-allergenic effects that define the helminth/allergy interface.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity
  • Allergens / immunology*
  • Animals
  • Cross Reactions
  • Helminthiasis / immunology*
  • Helminthiasis / parasitology
  • Helminths / immunology*
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Humans
  • Hygiene Hypothesis*
  • Hypersensitivity / immunology*
  • Hypersensitivity / parasitology
  • Immunoglobulin E / immunology
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Species Specificity


  • Allergens
  • Immunoglobulin E