MadSci Network: Immunology

Re: Is there any correlation between AIDS and allergic responses?

Date: Mon Nov 2 13:50:09 1998
Posted By: Jeffrey Dorfman, Post-doc/Fellow, immunology, national Institutes of Health
Area of science: Immunology
ID: 897067624.Im

Hello Chris, The simple answer is no. I have done a few computer searches of published medical articles and can find no indication that allergies could protect someone from AIDS or make it more likely that a person could fight off an HIV infection.

This isn't very surprising to me as an immunologist because the types of immune responses that are more sensitive in most allergy patients are not the same as the types of immune responses that are effective against viruses.

The question you ask is simple; but, it is surprisingly complicated to figure out the answer. The reliable, scientific way to know would be to take two groups of people: those with allergies and those without, expose both to HIV and see how many in each group get AIDS. Obviously, no one is interested in doing this (either as a scientist or a subject)!

So, the best way to figure this out is to start with a group of people, collect a lot of potentially useful information about them, including whether or not they have allergies, what type of allergies, etc. Then, follow them over several years and see if the presence of allergies perhaps makes people in this group less likely to get AIDS. The answer is a little less reliable partly because not everyone in this group is equally likely to be exposed to HIV.

Also, we don't usually watch immune responses to HIV and how strong they are early in infection (when an effect from allergies might reasonably be seen) because most HIV infected people don't know that they are infected at that stage. This would have been another way to try and get an answer to your question.

I have done some computer searches of publsihed scientific papers. One of the largest of these studies called the MACS (Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study) collected this information; but, there is no indication in any papers I could find that there is any relation between having any sort of allergy (at least asthma and hay fever data were collected) and protection from AIDS.

Jeff Dorfman

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