Allergy historical perspective

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1] Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Marufa Marium, M.B.B.S[2]


The term "allergy" was first coined in the early 1900s. It has since evolved into a number of distinct disease mechanisms linked to immune system activation that is disordered. With the discovery of immunoglobulin E (IgE) - Kimishige Ishizaka - in the 1960s, the overall study of allergy as a concept changed dramatically.

Historical Perspective

Clemens von Pirquet, a Viennese pediatrician, coined the term "allergy" in 1906 after observing that some of his patients were hypersensitive to normally harmless substances such as dust, pollen, or certain foods. Pirquet coined the term "allergy" from the Greek words allos, which means "other," and ergon, which means "work."[1] All forms of hypersensitivity were previously categorized as allergies, and they were all believed to be caused by an inappropriate immune system activation. Later, it became apparent that several different disease mechanisms were involved, all of which were linked to a disordered immune system activation. Philip Gell and Robin Coombs devised a new classification scheme in 1963 that defined four types of hypersensitivity reactions, referred to as Type I to Type IV hypersensitivity.[2] The term "allergy" was now limited to type I hypersensitivities (also known as immediate hypersensitivity), which are characterized by rapidly developing reactions. The discovery of the antibody class labeled immunoglobulin E (IgE) in the 1960s was a significant breakthrough in understanding the mechanisms of allergy. Kimishige Ishizaka and co-workers were the first to isolate and characterize IgE.[3]


  1. Von Pirquet C (1906). "Allergie". Munch Med Wochenschr. 53: 1457.
  2. Gell PGH, Coombs RRA. (1963). Clinical Aspects of Immunology. London: Blackwell.
  3. Ishizaka K, Ishizaka T, Hornbrook MM (1966). "Physico-chemical properties of human reaginic antibody. IV. Presence of a unique immunoglobulin as a carrier of reaginic activity". J. Immunol. 97 (1): 75–85. PMID 4162440.

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