Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory demyelinating disease of the Central Nervous System (CNS). Although its etiology remains unknown, several lines of evidence support autoimmunity as playing a major role in the development of the disease. MS incidence has significantly increased during the second half of the 20th century. This has been attributed to improved sanitation and reduced exposure to infection. The hygiene hypothesis is not new and is currently used to explain the increasing incidence of allergies and other autoimmune diseases. Because helminths are powerful modulators of the host immune system, it has also been suggested that reduced exposure to helminths due to improved hygiene conditions may favor MS development. In this chapter epidemiological, experimental and clinical data supporting the protective role of helminths in MS are reviewed. Better understanding of host-parasite interactions, as well as identification of specific parasite molecules causing immunomodulatory modulation will help combat allergies and autoimmune diseases without having to pay the price of undesired infectious side-effects.
KeywordsMultiple Sclerosis Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis Multiple Sclerosis Patient Experimental Allergic Encephalomyelitis Helminth Infection
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