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Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Allergies: a protective mechanism

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.