- The perfect mix of environmental
and genetic factors that must coexist to trigger food allergy.
- The factors that trigger food
allergy include the genetics that alter skin absorbency including skin
exposure to infant wipes, dust and food.
- The study also suggests that the
factors leading to food allergy can be modified in the home environment.
Infant and childhood food allergy
is linked to skin exposure and genetics, shows a new study making a major
advance in understanding how food allergy starts. Food allergy is triggered by
the perfect storm of genetics and skin exposure to infant wipes, dust and food,
shows study by a research team from Northwestern University Feinberg School of
Medicine. The study is published in Journal of Allergy and Clinical
Food allergies are seen when your
body's natural defence system overreacts to exposure of a particular food
substance and considers it as an invader. Food allergies
are most common in infants and
children but can appear at any age. It is estimated that 4 to 6 percent of
children in the U.S have food allergies and the numbers are rising, according
to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
‘Genetic factors that alter skin absorbency, like infant wipes exposure to allergens in dust and food can trigger food allergies.’
While the development of food allergies in children
has remained a mystery until now, a new study has discovered the recipe for
developing food allergy.
The factors that contribute to food allergy include the genetics that
alter skin absorbency, like the use of infant cleansing wipes that leave soap
on the skin, skin exposure to allergens in dust and skin exposure to food from
those providing infant care. When these factors occur in combination with
each other, food allergy is
the risk factors
However, the study
suggests that there are potential ways to intervene early to avoid developing
food allergy. This includes limiting the use of infant wipes that leave soap on
skin and washing hands before handling the baby.
"Reduce baby's skin exposure to the food allergens by washing your
hands before handling the baby," said lead study author Joan Cook-Mills, a
professor of allergy-immunology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of
Medicine. "Limit use of infant wipes that leave soap on the skin. Rinse
soap off with water, like we used to do
years ago. "
The team discovered the 'perfect storm' triggering food allergy by using
clinical evidence about food allergy in humans, the effects of food allergen
and environmental allergen exposures and neonatal mice with genetic mutations
that occur in humans.
Clinical evidence shows up to 35% of children with food allergies have
atopic dermatitis and majority of that is explained by at least three different
gene mutations that reduce the skin barrier.
The team then used neonatal mouse model with the
same skin barrier mutations and tried exposing its skin to food allergens like peanuts
However, the peanuts alone had no effect.
"Then I thought about what are babies exposed to," Cook-Mills
recalled. "They are exposed to environmental allergens in dust in a home.
They may not be eating food allergens as a newborn, but they are getting them
on their skin. Say a sibling with peanut butter on her face kisses the baby. Or
a parent is preparing food with peanuts and then handles the baby. "
The neonatal mice then received three to four skin exposures of food and
dust allergens for 40 minutes during a two-week period. The mice had allergic
reactions at the site of skin exposure, in the intestine, and severe allergic
food reaction of anaphylaxis.
It was observed that a skin barrier dysfunction was necessary for food
allergy to develop in the mice.
- Matthew T. Walker, Jeremy E. Green, Ryan P. Ferrie, Ashley M. Queener, Mark H. Kaplan, Joan M. Cook-Mills. Mechanism for initiation of food allergy: Dependence on skin barrier mutations and environmental allergen costimulation. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 2018; DOI: 10.1016/j.jaci.2018.02.003