A growing body of evidence suggests basophils are important components of the
human immune response to helminth infections. Basophil numbers are increased in several
animal models of helminth infection, and basophils have been shown to release both histamine
and IL-4 in response to helminths. Helminth infections typically provoke type 2
immune responses characterized by eosinophilia, elevated levels of Ag-specific and polyclonal
IgE, and T cell production of type 2 cytokines such as IL-4, IL-5, and IL-13. IL-4 plays
a central role in this type 2 response. As basophils are the only peripheral blood mononuclear
cells with the ability to release IL-4 rapidly in response to appropriate stimuli, releasing large
quantities of preformed IL-4 within minutes of surface IgE cross-linking, it appears likely
that basophils play an important role in amplifying ongoing type 2 immune responses to
helminth infections once Ag-specific IgE is present. Basophils may also function to initiate
type 2 responses upon first exposure to helminths and to potentially re-establish these
responses upon re-exposure. This article reviews basic basophil biology and physiology,
evaluates the evidence for the presence of basophilia in helminth infections, and then focuses
on the possible roles basophils serve in the immune response to helminth infections.
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