New study suggests eczema may be key part of infant food allergy development

The skin barrier breakdown and inflammation that occurs with eczema may play a key role in triggering food sensitivity in babies, says a new study.

This finding may indicate that food allergies develop via immune cells in the skin rather than the gut, which would change how many medical scientists go about researching food allergy origins.

The study, published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, was conducted by researchers from the King's College London and the University of Dundee. The findings add to a growing amount of evidence for eczema being a key player in food allergy development.

This study found that infants with an impaired skin barrier are over six times more likely than healthy infants to be sensitized to common allergy-related foods such as milk, peanuts and eggs. The odds were higher if the impaired skin barrier was due to eczema.

The study involved more than 600 three-month-old babies who were exclusively breast fed from birth. The researchers found that the more severe the eczema the baby had, the more likely he or she was to have a food sensitivity, independent of genetic factors. A follow-up study to see how many of those children develop full allergies is underway.

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