New insights about how gut microbes influence the immune system may lead to appropriate treatment or prevention of allergic disease


Increasing amounts of research data are pointing to the role that intestinal microbiota (bacteria) play in regulating the immune system, and the development of atopy (the incidence of allergy). A review by Shannon Russell and Brett Finlay of all this data evaluates all the key findings published to date.

Data included in the review focused on the incidence and prevalence of allergy, and on finding the cause of the increasing rates of atopy globally, looking at the bacteria of the gut.

The review shows that advances in technology over the last year have given a much better understanding of the gut microbiome (environment) in both non-allergic and allergic people. These studies have identified associations between certain gut microbes and certain diseases arising from that particular gut microbiome. The studies have also identified immune cells and their mediators involved in allergy development.

They have found that the microbial regulation of the immune responses in the mucosa inside and outside of the gut may encourage allergic inflammation in individuals with a susceptibility to atopy – meaning that with more research into the management of the microbes in the gut may lead to prevention or treatment of allergic disease.

In conclusion, the bank of research has identified a number of host and microbe targets that could be used to develop treatment or prevention of allergic disease.

Source: Current Opinion in Gastroenterology

First published in November 2012

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