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Skin Exposure May Lead To Early Risk For Food Allergies

Update Date: Oct 09, 2014 08:10 AM EDT
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Many children may become allergic to peanuts before they first eat them, and skin exposure may contribute to early sensitization, suggests a new study. 

Early in the process of developing an allergy, skin exposure to food allergens contributes to "sensitization", which means the skin is reactive to an antigen, such as peanuts, especially by repeated exposure, the press release added.

Earlier, studies have proven that children may first become allergic when exposed to peanut protein through breast milk or in house dust. However the new study adds skin exposure to the list of culprits that make a child allergic by the first time they taste a peanut. 

"The peanut protein responsible for most allergic reactions in humans is seen as foreign or dangerous by the immune system of the skin," said Cecilia Berin, PhD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in the press release. "Blocking those immune pathways activated in the skin prevented the development of peanut allergy in the mice, and our next step will be to confirm this in humans."

Researchers exposed a mice to peanut protein extract on the skin and observed that repeated topical exposure to peanut allergens led to sensitization and a severe whole-body allergic reaction upon second exposure. 

"This research helps us to understand why peanut, out of the many foods in our diet, is such a common cause of food allergy," said Berin. "If we identify how the immune system recognizes peanut as a danger, we may eventually learn how to block that pathway and prevent the food allergy altogether."

The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

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