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Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology
Volume 2007 (2007), Article ID 94971, 10 pages
Review Article

Regulatory Cells and Immunosuppressive Cytokines: Parasite-Derived Factors Induce Immune Polarization

INSERM, IRD UR008 “Pathogénie des Trypanosomatidés”, Centre IRD de Montpellier, 911 Avenue Agropolis, BP 65401, Montpellier 34394, France

Received 27 November 2006; Accepted 19 March 2007

Academic Editor: Abdelali Haoudi

Copyright © 2007 Ali Ouaissi. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Parasitic infections are prevalent in both tropical and subtropical areas. Most of the affected and/or exposed populations are living in developing countries where control measures are lacking or inadequately applied. Although significant progress has been made in our understanding of the immune response to parasites, no definitive step has yet been successfully done in terms of operational vaccines against parasitic diseases. Evidence accumulated during the past few years suggests that the pathology observed during parasitic infections is in part due to deregulation of normal components of the immune system, mainly cytokines, antibodies, and immune effector cell populations. A large number of studies that illustrate how parasites can modify the host immune system for their own benefit have been reported in both metazoan and protozoan parasites. The first line of defense against foreign organisms is barrier tissue such as skin, humoral factors, for instance the complement system and pentraxin, which upon activation of the complement cascade facilitate pathogen recognition by cells of innate immunity such as macrophages and DC. However, all the major groups of parasites studied have been shown to contain and/or to release factors, which interfere with both arms of the host immune system. Even some astonishing observations relate to the production by some parasites of orthologues of mammalian cytokines. Furthermore, chronic parasitic infections have led to the immunosuppressive environment that correlates with increased levels of myeloid and T suppressor cells that may limit the success of immunotherapeutic strategies based on vaccination. This minireview briefly analyzes some of the current data related to the regulatory cells and molecules derived from parasites that affect cellular function and contribute to the polarization of the immune response of the host. Special attention is given to some of the data from our laboratory illustrating the role of immunomodulatory factors released by protozoan parasites, in the induction and perpetuation of chronic disease.