Costs and benefits of the immune response have attracted considerable attention in the last years among evolutionary biologists. Given the cost of parasitism, natural selection should favor individuals with the most effective immune defenses. Nevertheless, there exists huge variation in the expression of immune effectors among individuals. To explain this apparent paradox, it has been suggested that an over-reactive immune system might be too costly, both in terms of metabolic resources and risks of immune-mediated diseases, setting a limit to the investment into immune defenses. Here, we argue that this view neglects one important aspect of the interaction: the role played by evolving pathogens. We suggest that taking into account the co-evolutionary interactions between the host immune system and the parasitic strategies to overcome the immune response might provide a better picture of the selective pressures that shape the evolution of immune functioning. Integrating parasitic strategies of host exploitation can also contribute to understand the seemingly contradictory results that infection can enhance, but also protect from, autoimmune diseases. In the last decades, the incidence of autoimmune disorders has dramatically increased in wealthy countries of the northern hemisphere with a concomitant decrease of most parasitic infections. Experimental work on model organisms has shown that this pattern may be due to the protective role of certain parasites (i.e.
, helminths) that rely on the immunosuppression of hosts for their persistence. Interestingly, although parasite-induced immunosuppression can protect against autoimmunity, it can obviously favor the spread of other infections. Therefore, we need to think about the evolution of the immune system using a multidimensional trade-off involving immunoprotection, immunopathology and the parasitic strategies to escape the immune response.