Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the small and large conducting airway mucosa characterised by Th2 cell immunity. Allergen-specific IgE levels control the immediate response whilst the interplay between airway mucosal antigen presenting cells, Th2 effector cells and CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells control the late phase, cell-mediated response. Using two experimental systems in mice with ovalbumin and papain, respectively, as the allergens, UV irradiation of skin prior to allergen sensitisation reduced the expression of allergic airways disease, particularly the late phase response. In this review, the reduced Th2-driven, asthma-like responses in respiratory tissues of UV-irradiated mice are detailed. Possible mechanisms of UV regulation are debated. The potential beneficial effects of UV irradiation of skin in controlling allergic airways disease are discussed. This review gives some scientific understanding to century-old anecdotal reports that beach and mountain resort holidays associated with increased UV exposure are beneficial in asthma treatment.
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