0
Opinions/Hypotheses |

The Increase in Allergic Respiratory Diseases : Survival of the Fittest?

Arthur E. Varner, MD
Author and Funding Information

*From Allergy Diagnostic, Beachwood, OH.

Correspondence to: Arthur E. Varner, MD, Allergy Diagnostic, 23250 Mercantile Rd, Beachwood, OH 44122; e-mail: Wiscart@aol.com



Chest. 2002;121(4):1308-1316. doi:10.1378/chest.121.4.1308
Text Size: A A A
Published online

The prevalence of allergic respiratory diseases, asthma and allergic rhinoconjunctivitis, has increased since the advent of industrialization. The inverse relationship between the number of infections early in life and atopy has been interpreted as the “hygiene hypothesis.” That is, many infections early in life promote the development of T helper type 1 cytokines, while fewer infections early in life favor the development of T helper type 2 (Th2) cytokines and atopy. An alternate interpretation of the same data, that atopy is protective against infections early in life, is rarely considered. With epidemiologic, historical, and immunologic data, I suggest that human evolution has favored individuals with an atopic predisposition. Th2 immune responses promote parity, and ensure successful pregnancy and term birth; provide the infant protection against infections and the inflammation induced by common pathogens in the first years of life until the immune system matures; and protect young adults exposed to viral respiratory pathogens. These traits are of particular value with the advent of industrialization, especially so in the era prior to the development of antibiotics. This theory contradicts the assumption that there is no biological or evolutionary advantage for allergic disease to exist in humans and has significant implications for our current and future treatments of allergic diseases.


Sign In to Access Full Content

MEMBER & INDIVIDUAL SUBSCRIBER

Want Access?

NEW TO CHEST?

Become a CHEST member and receive a FREE subscription as a benefit of membership.

Individuals can purchase this article on ScienceDirect.

Individuals can purchase a subscription to the journal.

Individuals can purchase a subscription to the journal or buy individual articles.

Learn more about membership or Purchase a Full Subscription.

INSTITUTIONAL ACCESS

Institutional access is now available through ScienceDirect and can be purchased at myelsevier.com.

Sign In to Access Full Content

MEMBER & INDIVIDUAL SUBSCRIBER

Want Access?

NEW TO CHEST?

Become a CHEST member and receive a FREE subscription as a benefit of membership.

Individuals can purchase this article on ScienceDirect.

Individuals can purchase a subscription to the journal.

Individuals can purchase a subscription to the journal or buy individual articles.

Learn more about membership or Purchase a Full Subscription.

INSTITUTIONAL ACCESS

Institutional access is now available through ScienceDirect and can be purchased at myelsevier.com.

Figures

Tables

References

NOTE:
Citing articles are presented as examples only. In non-demo SCM6 implementation, integration with CrossRef’s "Cited By" API will populate this tab (http://www.crossref.org/citedby.html).

Some tools below are only available to our subscribers or users with an online account.

Sign In to Access Full Content

MEMBER & INDIVIDUAL SUBSCRIBER

Want Access?

NEW TO CHEST?

Become a CHEST member and receive a FREE subscription as a benefit of membership.

Individuals can purchase this article on ScienceDirect.

Individuals can purchase a subscription to the journal.

Individuals can purchase a subscription to the journal or buy individual articles.

Learn more about membership or Purchase a Full Subscription.

INSTITUTIONAL ACCESS

Institutional access is now available through ScienceDirect and can be purchased at myelsevier.com.

Related Content

Customize your page view by dragging & repositioning the boxes below.

Find Similar Articles
CHEST Journal Articles
PubMed Articles
  • CHEST Journal
    Print ISSN: 0012-3692
    Online ISSN: 1931-3543