Guy Boeckxstaens and colleagues show that bacterial enteric infection in mice can cause a localized immune response to dietary antigens that mimics the symptoms of post-infectious irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in humans. The responses were dependent on the development of dietary-antigen-specific IgE antibodies and activation of mast cells. Re-exposure to the dietary antigen triggered degranulation of mast cells and stimulation of nociceptive neurons, thereby resulting in increased abdominal pain. The study supports the concept that bacterial infection or superantigens can break oral tolerance to food antigens, resulting in a localized food allergy-like immune response and visceral hypersensitivity. The findings may be relevant for designing new testable hypotheses regarding the development of food-mediated inflammatory disorders such as IBS, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and food allergies, and for developing treatments for these conditions.
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