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Gene defects linked to babies' eczema, wheeze and nasal disease

Tuesday April 28th, 2020

A link between a common gene defect and eczema, nasal blockage and wheeze among babies as young as six months has been identified, a new study has revealed.

Research by scientists at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, UK, will raise new questions about how soon in life these defects start to affect babies.

The GO-CHILD study, the first of its type, looked at the protein filaggrin, which is present in the skin and nasal cavity, and maintains the skin barrier. Previous studies have shown defects in the gene synthesising filaggrin are strongly linked to the risk of developing eczema and how serious the eczema and asthma turned out to be over childhood.

This research, published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, involved 2,312 pregnant women in England and Scotland, who gave a cord blood sample at birth or saliva in infancy for genotyping of the babies.

The babies were followed up for symptoms related to allergic diseases such as dry skin, eczema, wheeze and nasal blockage, at the ages of six, 12 and 24 months by postal questionnaires sent to the carers.

The gene defects made eczema, wheeze and nasal blockage worse at six months and while the defects were affecting eczema at one year, they were no longer worsening wheeze and nasal blockage at this age.

At two years, they were mainly worsening eczema and nasal blockage, but not affecting wheeze.

Professor Somnath Mukhopadhyay, chair in paediatrics, said their finding establishes the link between these gene defects, the resultant skin problem, and eczema, wheeze and nasal blockage, in early infancy.

“The problems affecting the child change over time, filaggrin gene variation representing one major ensemble within the grand orchestra of allergic disease,” he said.

“The use of simple emollients from birth targeted towards those who have these gene defects may help correct this problem, thus alleviating suffering in infancy and also through life.

“This skin barrier defect leads to selective entry of allergens to increase the burden of disease. Whether such barrier defects could make us more vulnerable to agents causing infection, such as viruses, has not yet been addressed. We are in the midst of a pandemic where some people are affected but many are not.

"Could a defective outer barrier in skin and mouth be making some of us more vulnerable? If so, would identifying patients carrying these defects help us better protect those that are more vulnerable?”

Filaggrin gene defects are associated with eczema, wheeze, and nasal disease during infancy: Prospective study. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 27 April 2020

https://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(20)30348-1/abstract

Tags: Allergies & Asthma | Child Health | Respiratory | UK News

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