Summary

From strictly empirical beginnings, immunologists and clinical practitioners have developed immunization strategies that efficiently protect large populations from a host of infectious diseases. Increased understanding of how protective immune responses are initiated and maintained has played a substantial role. With allergic diseases currently affecting 20-25% of the population in developed nations at substantial social and financial cost, the need for consistently effective strategies is readily apparent. Better understanding of 1) the means by which exposure to ubiquitous environmental antigens leads to allergic sensitization versus clinical tolerance, 2) immunologic mechanisms responsible for maintenance of hypersensitivity diseases and 3) the cause-and-effect relationship underlying successful immunothera-peutic regimens are key priorities in moving desensitization programs to high levels of efficacy and acceptance.

See also: Allergens; Asthma; Atopic allergy; Mast cells; IgE; Rhinitis, allergic; Venoms; Vaccines; Interleukin 4; Effector lymphocytes.

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