-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, July 19 (HealthDay News) -- The skin disease eczema may
be an important factor in the development of food allergies in
infants, a new British study suggests.
The breakdown in the skin barrier that occurs in eczema could
play a key role in triggering food sensitivity in babies, the
researchers from King's College London and the University of Dundee
"This is a very exciting study, providing further evidence that an impaired skin barrier and eczema could play a key role in triggering food sensitivity in babies, which could ultimately lead to the development of food allergies," Dr. Carsten Flohr, of King's College London, said in a college news release.
The researchers said the discovery suggests that food allergies
may develop via immune cells in the skin rather than in the gut and
that the findings indicate that eczema may be a potential target
for preventing food allergies in children.
A link between eczema and food allergies has been known for some
time, but this study -- published July 18 in the
Journal of Investigative Dermatology-- adds to growing
evidence of the skin barrier's role in the process, according to
The study included more than 600 infants who were 3 months old
and exclusively breast-fed from birth. They were tested for eczema
and checked to see if they were sensitized to the six most common
Egg white was the most common allergen, followed by cow's milk
and peanuts. The more severe the eczema, the stronger the link to
food sensitivity, independent of genetic factors.
It's believed that the breakdown of the skin barrier in infants
with eczema leaves active immune cells found in skin exposed to
environmental allergens -- in this case food proteins -- which then
triggers an allergic immune response, the researchers
They also noted that food sensitivity does not always lead to
food allergy and they're conducting a follow-up of the infants in
"This work takes what we thought we knew about eczema and food allergy and flips it on its head. We thought that food allergies are triggered from the inside out, but our work shows that in some children it could be from the outside in, via the skin," Flohr explained. "The skin barrier plays a crucial role in protecting us from allergens in our environment, and we can see here that when that barrier is compromised, especially in eczema, it seems to leave the skin's immune cells exposed to these allergens."
This finding opens up the possibility that by repairing the skin
barrier and preventing eczema, it might be possible to reduce the
risk of food allergies, Flohr added.
The American Academy of Dermatology has more about
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