Rights: University of Waikato Published 18 October 2010 Download

Professor Graham Le Gros from the Malaghan Institute talks about allergic reactions. He suggests this is the body’s immune system reacting in a mistaken way. The immune system responds as it would against, for example, a parasite, whereas the invader is not a parasite but normally harmless pollen or dust.

Find out more here about some of the lastest research by scientists at the Malaghan Institute. They are working on a vaccine that shuts down the Th2 immune response to prevent the development of asthma and allergy symptoms.


What causes that allergic reaction or asthmatic reaction is the body – it’s the body’s immune system. It protects us every day, all the time, against viruses, parasites, everything. But for some reason, and these reasons we still do not understand, the body thinks you are being attacked by a parasite in the lungs or on the skin, and it makes a strong allergic reaction to get rid of that parasite. And because there is no parasite there in your lungs for asthma, so the immune system is mistaken.

We don’t understand why it’s mistaken. We think it could be that here is chance cross-reactional crossover – that the immune system picks up a signal on pollens or on the house dust mites or the dust in your room and thinks that actually that is a worm, but it’s not.

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