The dramatic recent rise in the incidence of allergic or autoimmune inflammatory diseases in the West has been proposed to reflect the lack of appropriate priming of the immune response by infectious agents such as parasitic worms during childhood. Consistent with this, there is increasing evidence supporting an inverse relationship between worm infection and T helper type 1/17 (Th1/17)-based inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis. Perhaps more surprisingly, given that such worms often induce strong Th2-type immune responses, there also appears to be an inverse correlation between parasite load and atopy. These findings therefore suggest that the co-evolution of helminths with hosts, which has resulted in the ability of worms to modulate inflammatory responses to promote parasite survival, has also produced the benefit of protecting the host from pathological lesions arising from aggressive proinflammatory responses to infection or, indeed, aberrant inflammatory responses underlying autoimmune and allergic disorders. By focusing upon the properties of the filarial nematode-derived immunomodulatory molecule, ES-62, in this review we shall discuss the potential of exploiting the immunomodulatory products of parasitic worms to identify and develop novel therapeutics for inflammation.
- autoimmune disease