Population studies from the African continent have observed a marked increase in the prevalence of allergy-related diseases over the past few decades, but the cause of this rise is not fully understood. The most investigated potential risk factor has been the relationship between exposure to helminths and allergy-related outcomes. Immunologically, parallels exist between responses to helminths and to allergens as both are associated with elevated levels of immunoglobulin E, increased numbers of T helper 2 cells and other immune cells. However, epidemiological studies from the African continent have found inconsistent results. In this review, observations from population studies carried out in Africa over the last decade that focus on the relationship between helminth infections and allergy-related outcomes are examined. How these findings advance our understanding of the complex interactions between helminths and allergies at the population level is also explored as well as some of the underlying immune mechanisms involved. This knowledge is important for better diagnosis, treatment and prevention of allergy-related diseases and has wider global significance.
Keywords: Africa; Helminths; allergy/atopy; immune mechanisms; immunoepidemiology; immunoglobulin; parasite; tools and techniques.
© 2018 The Authors. Parasite Immunology Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.