Around two per cent of school children in the UK and the US are allergic to peanuts. Severe eczema in early infancy has been linked to food allergies, particularly peanut allergy.
The study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, looked at the amount of peanut protein infants aged 3-15 months were exposed to in house dust, by vacuuming dust from the living room and measuring peanut in the dust. The study was conducted in 359 children who had a high risk of developing peanut allergy because they were allergic to cow’s milk or egg or had moderate to severe eczema and had tested positive for an allergy to cow’s milk or egg.
The study found that exposure to peanut in dust early in life doubled the risk of peanut allergy. In children with a history of eczema, the risk of peanut allergy increased further.
Dr Helen A Brough, first author from the Department of Paediatric Allergy, King’s College London, said: “This study adds to the growing body of evidence that exposure to peanut via a damaged skin barrier may increase the risk of peanut allergy. Previous studies have shown, for example, that infants with eczema treated with creams containing peanut oil in the first six months of life had a higher risk of developing peanut allergy later in life.”
Professor Gideon Lack, senior author from the Department of Paediatric Allergy, King’s College London, said: “This is further evidence for the dual-allergen-exposure theory which suggests food allergies develop through exposure to allergens via the skin, likely through a disrupted skin barrier, whilst consumption of these food proteins early in life builds up tolerance in the body. Previous guidelines recommending that mothers should avoid peanuts during pregnancy and breastfeeding have now been withdrawn. It may be that the timing and balance of skin and oral exposure to a particular food early in life determines whether a child develops an allergy or tolerance to that food.”
Notes to editors
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‘Atopic dermatitis increases the impact of exposure to peanut antigen in dust on peanut sensitization and likely peanut allergy’ by Brough et al. is published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology on Wednesday 19 November 2014.
The study was funded by Action Medical Research and supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Facility at Guy’s & St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre based at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and Kings College London. The CoFAR study was funded by a grant (AI66738) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID). The project was also supported by grants from the National Center for Advancing Translational Services (NCATS), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to National Jewish Health, Mount Sinai, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, University of North Carolina and Johns Hopkins University. The Centre for Dermatology and Genetic Medicine at the University of Dundee is supported by the Wellcome Trust.