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Allergic host defences

Abstract

Allergies are generally thought to be a detrimental outcome of a mistargeted immune response that evolved to provide immunity to macroparasites. Here we present arguments to suggest that allergic immunity has an important role in host defence against noxious environmental substances, including venoms, haematophagous fluids, environmental xenobiotics and irritants. We argue that appropriately targeted allergic reactions are beneficial, although they can become detrimental when excessive. Furthermore, we suggest that allergic hypersensitivity evolved to elicit anticipatory responses and to promote avoidance of suboptimal environments.

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Figure 1: Diverse stimuli activate allergic host defences.
Figure 2: Functional modules of type 2 immunity.
Figure 3: Somatosensory pathways in allergic immunity.

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Acknowledgements

The work in R.M.’s laboratory is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and grants from the National Institutes of Health.

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N.W.P., R.K.R. and R.M. discussed and prepared the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Ruslan Medzhitov.

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Palm, N., Rosenstein, R. & Medzhitov, R. Allergic host defences. Nature 484, 465–472 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature11047

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