A new pattern of immune activation at birth was associated with an increased risk of babies developing food allergies in early life, revealed a new study.
The study published in the Journal Science Translational Medicine
was led by Dr Yuxia Zhang and Professor Len Harrison from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, and Associate Professor Peter Vuillermin from Barwon Health, Deakin University and the Murdoch Children's Research Institute.
‘Australian researchers have discovered an "immune signature" in the cord blood of children with clinical signs of food allergies at 12 months.’
"We found a link between children who had hyperactive immune cells at birth and the development of allergies to milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat and other common foods in their first years of life," said Professor Harrison.
The team analyzed the food allergy information collected by the Barwon Infant Study (BIS), a collaboration between Barwon Health, Deakin University and Murdoch Children's Research Institute. They found that a new immune 'signature' found in cord blood at birth put babies at risk of developing food allergies.
Dr Zhang said, "In at-risk babies, immune cells called monocytes were activated before or during birth. Signals from these cells encouraged the development of immune responses by specialized immune cells called T cells that were predisposed to cause allergic reactions to some foods."
"Are the immune cells inherently activated because of the baby's genes or do they become activated at the time of birth or earlier in pregnancy, and how?" Professor Harrison added.
He said that the finding could lead to future treatments for babies and infants to prevent childhood food allergies. One of the next steps for the research team would be to identify why these babies have hyperactive immune cells.