April 28, 2020

Gene Defects Linked to Eczema, Wheezing in Infants

A link has been discovered between a common gene defect and eczema, nasal blockage, and wheezing in babies as young as 6 months, according to a study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

The research raises new questions about how soon in life these defects could start affecting babies, resulting in serious health problems, and suggests treatment targeted towards children carrying these genetic defects started soon after birth could improve their lives.

The protein filaggrin is present in the skin and nasal cavity, helping to maintain the skin barrier, and 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.

“In the first study of this kind, we recruited mothers in the antenatal clinic and followed up the babies through infancy, in order to define the link between these gene defects, the resultant skin problem, and eczema, wheeze, and nasal blockage in early infancy,” said Somnath Mukhopadhyay, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Brighton, England. “Our striking finding establishing this link could mean that some babies with these gene defects could be getting primed from birth or soon after, for a life of suffering from allergy-related disease.”

The GO-CHILD study included 2,312 pregnant women from England and Scotland who gave a cord blood sample at birth or saliva in infancy for genotyping of the babies. Babies were followed-up for symptoms related to allergic diseases such as dry skin, eczema, wheeze, and nasal blockage at ages, 6, 12, and 24 months by postal questionnaires sent to the carers.

Results showed that the gene defects made eczema, wheeze, and nasal blockage worse at 6 months. While the defects were affecting eczema at 1 year, they were no longer worsening wheeze and nasal blockage at this age. At 2 years, they were principally worsening eczema and nasal blockage, but not affecting wheeze.

“The problems affecting the child change over time, filaggrin gene variation representing one major ensemble within the grand orchestra of allergic disease,” said Mukhopadhyay. “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 new approach for targeting treatment according to genetic information could represent the first application of this exciting and novel approach in little babies otherwise primed to develop chronic disease from an early age.”

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

SOURCE: University of Sussex
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