Immunotoxicology: suppressive and stimulatory effects of drugs and environmental chemicals on the immune system - A discussion

E. Gleichmann, I. Kimber, I. F H Purchase

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    The fundamental characteristic of the adaptive immune system which has evolved in the vertebrates is the ability to recognise, and subsequently destroy, "foreign", and potentially harmful, antigens. The selective advantage which the immune system confers is the capacity to resist infectious, and possibly malignant, disease. It has been apparent for many years that individuals in whom immune function is impaired, due either to a congenital defect or to other factors such as treatment with certain immunosuppressive drugs, exhibit an increased susceptibility to infection and, in some cases, an elevated risk of developing at least some forms of malignancy. There is an increasing awareness from rodent studies that a variety of drugs and environmental chemicals have the potential to unintentionally impair components of the immune system. Risk assessment, based upon data from chemically induced changes in one or more parameters of immune function, is, however, dependent upon a knowledge of the functional reserve of the immune system. One of the objectives of the meeting from which this report derives was to examine what sources of information are available, and what experimental protocols can be employed, to permit accurate evaluation of immunological reserve. Although, under normal circumstances, the immune system selectively and specifically recognises foreign antigen, it is clear that the potential to recognise "self" is present and that in certain circumstances this potential is realised. Antibodies directed against normal tissue antigens have been shown to be associated with, and in some instances the presumptive cause of, "autoimmune" disease. There is a growing list of drugs and chemicals which are capable of eliciting autoantibodies and pathological autoimmune reactions. A second purpose of this meeting and of this report was to review the current state of knowledge regarding drug- and chemical-induced autoimmunity. © 1989 Springer-Verlag.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)257-273
    Number of pages16
    JournalArchives of Toxicology
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 1989


    • Autoimmunity
    • Drugs
    • Environmental chemicals
    • Immunostimulation
    • Immunosuppression


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