Immunology of helminth infections, with special reference to immunopathology Conference Paper uri icon


  • Immune responses resulting in immunity to infection or disease, share the same basic humoral and cellular mechanisms. While immunity to helminth infection has evolved to mediate rapid elimination of the parasite, the strategies evolved by the parasites themselves aim to delay this rejection process and ensure the survival and distribution of their progeny. Ineffective or incomplete immunity results in persistence of parasites or their products within the host tissues, inappropriate or chronic stimulation by parasite antigens, hyper-reactivity and tissue damage or immunopathology. A long standing classification by Gell and Coombs identifies four major types of hypersensitivity responses accounting for most of the immunopathogenesis, three of which are mediated by antibody and one, delayed type hypersensitivity (DTH), by T cells. This paper aims to give a short review of these four classical hypersensitivity reactions with particular reference to infections of large animals with helminth parasites. In addition, in view of the functionally different helper T cell subsets now identified, the existing DTH response is redefined as DTH Type 1 (Th-1 mediated) and two new classes of T cell-dependent DTH responses are proposed; DTH Type II, associated with the Th-2 type cytokines IL-4 and IL-5 and eosinophilic granuloma formation, and DTH Type III, associated with IL-4 and TGF-beta and fibrosis. Finally, some implications of immunopathology on parasite control strategies are discussed.

publication date

  • August 1999