Helminths and Allergy in South-Africa and Northern Europe

There has been a significant increase in asthma and allergies over the last couple of decades in high-income countries (with prevalence over 20% in many societies). These diseases are also increasingly prevalent in developing countries, which can cause a substantial increase in mortality rates since proper medication is often expensive. The causes of these diseases are not well understood and there is neither a cure nor efficient prevention. At the same time, helminth infections have decreased and have known immunological effects.

We want to assess the role of helminth infections in allergic diseases by analysing helminth antibodies in relation to allergy markers (clinical disease and IgEs) in cohorts from Norway, Estonia and South Africa, as well as by analysing related epigenetic characteristics.

The program is novel and innovative as there are no previous human studies relating helminth infections to allergy in large multigenerational population-based cohorts, or comparing the helminth/allergy relationship in well-characterised cohorts from countries with such a wide range in prevalence of both helminth infections and allergy.

The program is important scientifically since large research initiatives over the last decades have worked intensively on assessing asthma and allergy causality without being able to discover efficient preventive or curative measures.

The program is important to society in general since asthma and allergy often start early in childhood (as opposed to most other non-communicable diseases) and places a large burden on both individuals and their families. Further, asthma constitutes a potentially mortal disease if efficient treatment is not generally available.

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Other related research projects

  • RHINESSA - studying lung health throughout the lifespan and across generations in 7 countries over the last 20 years.
  • ALEC - Ageing Lungs in European Cohort study funded by the EU H2020 Research and Innovation Programme

Report 2015 Helminths and Allergy.pdf

  • Professor Cecilie Svanes, University of Bergen
  • Professor William Horsnell, University of Cape Town
  • Professor John Holloway, University of Southampton
  • Associate Professor Vivi Schlünssen, Aarhus University
  • Dr. Rain Jögi, Tartu University

Public Health (Non-communicable Disease)