Parasites have shaped our Immune System

Excellent article on the human immune system, and how a huge population genetics study proves parasites have evolved with us to shape it.  A quote:

“Sironi and Fumagalli’s data suggest that our immune systems have co-evolved with parasitic worms—living alongside helminthes for millions of years has shaped the way our immune systems react to pathogens, through a greater genetic diversity in our immune-related genes. In turn, helminthes have evolved the ability to mitigate the human immune response to their own advantage, as many worms need their human host healthy in order to propagate and survive.

Fumagalli’s research group then analyzed five interleukin genes, which encode for proteins involved in mediating the immune system’s response to disease. These genes have evolved to deal with a variety of different pathogens, including viruses, bacteria, fungi and worms.

“These genes are very involved with many autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s and multiple sclerosis,” Cooke says. “And these genes have evolved to deal with a lot of diverse pathogens.  But when you take someone out of the environment where there is that diversity, all those different pathogens, it may result in an imbalance: an overactive response to pathogens and, ultimately, autoimmune disease.”

The work provides evidence that the human immune system likely co-evolved with helminthes.”

The proof is in the (fact that I can now eat) pudding.

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