Venom toxicity countered by allergic antibodies
The production of immunoglobulins E (IgE), i.e. the antibodies responsible for allergic reactions, is generally considered as noxious and as the result of a dysfunction in the immune system. A study led by Thomas Marichal, a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of Professor Steve Galli at Stanford University, showed that these antibodies can have a protective effect against the toxicity of honeybee and snake venoms.
A dysfunction preserved over the course of evolution
An allergic reaction is considered as a dysfunction of the immune system. It is an exaggerated and unwanted reaction of the latter to foreign substances in the body, the majority of which are inoffensive. “In some people, contact with a particular allergen (for instance pollen, dust mite faeces, or peanut extracts) triggers a type 2 or Th2 response, i.e. a response involving immune cells capable of orchestrating the allergic reactions”, explains Thomas Marichal, researcher at the University of Liège, and currently performing a postdoctoral training at Stanford University in California (USA) as a Marie Curie IOF fellow from the European Commission. “Th2 lymphocytes produce cytokines that promote the synthesis of immunoglobulin E antibodies, underlying the allergic reaction. This Th2 response can be induced by many different allergens but the antibodies that are produced are specific to the allergen that triggered this response”, specifies Thomas Marichal. When they are produced, immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies circulate in the blood and the majority of them will bind to the surface of mast cells.