Asthma is a common inflammatory disease of the airways that results in airway narrowing and wheezing. Allergic asthma is characterised by a T-helper cell-type (Th) 2 response, immunoglobulin (Ig) E production, and eosinophilic influx into the airways. Recently, many clinical studies have implicated Mycoplasma pneumoniae and Chlamydia pneumoniae in the development and exacerbation of both chronic and acute asthma. It is widely accepted that M. pneumoniae and C. pneumoniae infections require Th1 immunity for clearance; therefore, according to the hygiene hypothesis, these infections should be protective against asthma. Here, we review the clinical evidence for the association and mechanisms of predisposition to and protection against asthma by these infections. We will examine the following question: Is it the absence of infection or the age of the individual on infection that confers susceptibility or resistance to asthma and does this vary between normal and predisposed individuals? We put forward a hypothesis of the effects of these infections on the development and prevention of asthma and how novel preventative and treatment strategies involving these microbes may be targeted against asthma.
Pharmacology and Therapeutics Vol. 101, Issue 3, p. 193-210