To probe the potential role of Th1 versus Th2 reactivity underlying the hygiene hypothesis, intrinsic levels of Th1-associated and Th2-associated antibodies in the serum of wild rodents were compared with that in various strains of laboratory rodents. Studies using rat lung antigens as a target indicated that wild rats have substantially greater levels of autoreactive, polyreactive immunoglobulin G (IgG), but not autoreactive, polyreactive IgM than do laboratory rats, both on a quantitative and qualitative basis. Increased levels of serum IgG and IgE were observed in both wild rats and wild mice relative to their laboratory-raised counterparts, with the effect being most pronounced for IgE levels. Further, wild rats had greater intrinsic levels of both Th1- and Th2-associated IgG subclasses than did lab rats. The habitat (wild versus laboratory raised) had a more substantial impact on immunoglobulin concentration than did age, strain or gender in the animals studied. The presence in wild rodents of increased intrinsic, presumably protective, non-pathogenic responses similar to both autoimmune (autoreactive IgG, Th1-associated) and allergic (IgE, Th2-associated) reactions as well as increased levels of Th1-associated and Th2-associated IgG subclasses points toward a generally increased stimulation of the immune system in these animals rather than a shift in the nature of the immunoreactivity. It is concluded that, at least to the extent that feedback inhibition is a controlling element of immunoreactivity, an overly hygienic environment may affect the threshold of both types of immune responses more so than the balance between the different responses.
Additional publication details
Increased levels of IgE and autoreactive, polyreactive IgG in wild rodents: implications for the hygiene hypothesis