Clinical improvement of asthma after anthelminthic treatment in a tropical situation

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 1997 Jul;156(1):50-4. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm.156.1.9606081.


Intestinal helminths are among the most common infectious organisms of humans, particularly in tropical regions, and can induce the production of large quantities of IgE antibody. Part of this response is directed against the helminths own antigens, but a polyclonal stimulation also occurs that may increase the allergic reactivity toward environmental allergens. The importance of this in the symptomatology of asthma in these regions is, however, uncertain. In the present study we evaluated the effect of regular anthelminthic treatment with albendazol for 1 yr on a group of asthmatic patients in a zone in which these parasites are endemic. The number of asthmatic crises, need for maintenance therapy with inhaled steroids, and use of inhaled beta 2-agonists were compared both with those in the year prior to the study for the treated patients, and with those in a group of asthmatic subjects evaluated in parallel, but in whom the parasitic infections were not controlled. Significant improvement in all of these indicators of clinical status occurred in the treated group, not only for the period of anthelminth administration, but also for the year following. However, after 2 yr without treatment, the severity of asthma reverted to the initial state. No significant changes were observed in the control group over the entire period of evaluation. At the beginning of the study, the patients' pulmonary function was below the levels predicted for normal individuals, but this was not changed by the anthelminthic treatment. The patients' total serum IgE levels, which were elevated at the beginning of the study, were significantly diminished by the anthelminth administration, as were the specific IgE antibody levels and positivity in skin tests for immediate hypersensitivity to the common environmental allergen Dermatophagoides sp. However, the specific response to Ascaris lumbricoides, a common helminth in the area, was maintained despite treatment. These results indicate that intestinal helminthic infections can contribute to the clinical symptoms of asthma in an endemic situation. This may occur via a direct response to the parasite and/or a nonspecific potentiation of allergic reactivity to environmental allergens.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Albendazole / therapeutic use*
  • Allergens
  • Animals
  • Anthelmintics / therapeutic use*
  • Antigens, Dermatophagoides
  • Antigens, Helminth / immunology
  • Ascaris lumbricoides / immunology
  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Asthma / immunology
  • Endemic Diseases
  • Female
  • Glycoproteins
  • Helminthiasis / complications*
  • Helminthiasis / drug therapy
  • Helminthiasis / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin E / blood
  • Male
  • Mites / immunology
  • Respiratory Function Tests


  • Allergens
  • Anthelmintics
  • Antigens, Dermatophagoides
  • Antigens, Helminth
  • Glycoproteins
  • Immunoglobulin E
  • Albendazole