Immune and genetic aspects of asthma, allergy and parasitic worm infections: evolutionary links


  • Disclosures: Non-Executive Director ABM University NHS Trust. Director, with equity holdings, in Allerna Therapeutics Ltd (a start-up company from the Institute of Life Science, developing novel therapeutics for asthma and allergy).

: Julian Hopkin, Institute of Life Science, School of Medicine, Swansea University, Swansea SA2 8PP, UK (e-mail:


There are important parallels in the immunobiology of allergy and asthma, and of the human host's response to parasitic worms. Th-2 immune actions with ‘weep and sweep’ mucosal biology are common to both – pathological in the first and protective in the second. Common up-regulating genetic variants of Th-2 immunity, notably in IL13 and STAT6, predict increased risk of asthma and allergy, but diminished intensity of infection by Ascaris and Schistosoma. Endemic exposures of humans to parasitic worms may have been one evolutionary force selecting for genetic variants that promote asthma and allergy.