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A review of the genetic epidemiology of resistance to parasitic disease and atopic asthma: common variants for common phenotypes?

Barnes, Kathleen C; Grant, Audrey V; Gao, Peisong

Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology: October 2005 - Volume 5 - Issue 5 - p 379–385
doi: 10.1097/01.all.0000182543.37724.7b
Genetics and epidemiology

Purpose of review An inverse relationship between resistance to certain parasitic diseases and measures of atopy and asthma has long been observed. A possible explanation is that genetic determinants which confer protection against detrimental worm burdens are the same determinants involved in atopic asthma. The focus of this review is to consider the potential candidate genes that have been elucidated as part of molecular, genomic and genetic studies of parasite biology, host–parasite interactions and classic genetic epidemiology studies on parasitic disease and allergic asthma.

Recent findings Comparative studies of the Plasmodium and Schistosoma spp. genomes have revealed a number of proteins that are homologous to humans. A number of linkage and association studies on susceptibility/resistance to parasitic diseases, including malaria and schistosomiasis, overlap with associations that have been identified for susceptibility to atopy and asthma.

Summary In response to parasitic approaches in maintaining survival, the human host has evolved genetic adaptations that minimize severe manifestations of disease, which conversely appear to contribute to allergic disease. A clearer understanding of this process will elucidate the complex pathways and mechanisms involved in these traits.

Johns Hopkins Asthma and Allergy Center, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Correspondence to Kathleen C. Barnes, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Johns Hopkins Asthma and Allergy Center, Johns Hopkins University, 5501 Hopkins Bayview Circle, Room 3A.62A, Baltimore, MD 21224, USA Tel: +1 410 550 2071; fax: +1 410 550 2130; e-mail:

© 2005 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.