Children with early infections of helminths appear to have less allergic disease -

Allergic diseases cause a large and increasing burden in developed countries and in urban centres in middle-income countries. The causes of this increase are unknown and, currently, there are no interventions to prevent the development of allergic diseases.

The 'hygiene hypothesis' has suggeseted that a reduction in the frequency of childhood infections has failed to programme the immune system not to over-react to harmeless substances. Intestinal helminth parasites are prevalent in childhood in developing countries and are associated with a lower prevalence of allergen skin test reactivity and asthma.

The objective of this study was to investigate whether children who had intestinal helminth infections during early childhood have a lower prevalence of allergen skin test reactivity later in childhood.

To do so the researchers re-visited a population of 1055 children from whom stool samples had been collected for detection of intestinal helminth infections for another study, and collected new stool samples and performed allergen skin prick testing.

It was found that children with heavy infections with Trichuris trichiura in early childhood, even though they no longer had any infection when they were re-skin tested in later childhood, had significantly lower allergic reactions.

The researchers therefore concluded that early heavy infections with T. trichiura may protect against the development of allergy in later childhood and taht it may be possible to develop treatments to mimic the effects of early infections with T. trichiura to hlep prevent allergic disease.

Early infection with Trichuris trichiura and allergen skin test reactivity in later childhood. Clin Exp Allergy. 2008 Nov;38(11):1769-77. Epub 2008 Jun 10.

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