Studies of the molecular mechanisms associated with allergic diseases have lead to a better understanding of the complex processes that underlie their pathogenesis. These mechanisms involve Th2- and Th1-type cells and also some recently described cytokines, such as IL-25 and IL-33. Regulatory mechanisms of allergic inflammation have also been identified. For instance, IL-10, a cytokine produced by many cell types, promotes a decrease in IgE production, and inhibits the release of histamine and other inflammatory mediators by mast cells. Recently, a variety of regulatory cells have been discovered, which, either by direct contact or through the production of IL-10 and/or TGF-β, can inhibit the allergic inflammatory response. IL-10 is produced in high levels by cells of helminth-infected individuals. There is some evidence that such infections protect against the development of allergic diseases. In asthmatic individuals living in endemic areas of schistosomiasis, it has been shown in in vitro studies that there is a modulation of the Th2 response, both by mechanisms involving IL-10, which is produced mainly by monocytes and CD4+CD25+ T regulatory cells, and also by the expression of cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen 4 (CTLA-4) in CD4+ T cells. Studies using parasite antigens to induce the modulation of allergic inflammatory response are being conducted by several groups of researchers and represent new perspectives for the treatment of allergic diseases.
Asthma, allergy, immunoregulation, atopy
Servico de Imunologia, Hospital Universitario Prof. Edgard Santos, Universidade Federal da Bahia, Rua Joao das Botas, s/n Canela, 40110-160 Salvador–Bahia, Brazil.