Dr Ferreira said the more of the variants a person had, the higher their risk of developing an allergic condition, like asthma.
“Between 30-50% of people have an allergy of some kind. Early in life, they’ll develop an allergic reaction to pollen, or dust, for example,” Dr Ferreira said.
“In this study, we searched for genetic differences between people to explain why some develop allergies, while others don’t.
“This is important because we know that if you become allergic as a child, then you will be at an increased risk of developing asthma, hay fever or eczema later in life.”
The international genetic study was the largest of its kind, comparing the genetic make-up of nearly 6,000 people with allergies and 10,000 people without allergies. It found 10 genetic variants that played a role in allergies. A person’s risk increased depending on how many of these “bad” variants were inherited from their parents.
“As a result of this research, we are now certain that these 10 DNA regions contain genes involved in allergies,” Dr Ferreira said.
“We will now try to understand what specific genes are involved, how they work and if they can be targeted by new drugs to treat or prevent allergic diseases.”.
This research is published in the current online edition of Nature Genetics and can be viewed at http://www.nature.com/ng/index.html
The Australian component of this study was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council and included researchers from QIMR and six other national institutes.
QIMR is also calling for volunteers to help it continue Australia’s largest study of asthma genetics: the Australian Asthma Genetics Consortium.
If you are over 18 and suffer from asthma now, or at any point in the past, please visit www.asthma.qimr.edu.au or call 1800 257 179 during business hours.