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Hyperactive Immune Response At Birth May Lead To Childhood Allergies

Update Date: Jan 16, 2016 06:08 PM EST

One unique design of "immune activation" during birth might be linked to high risks of babies getting allergic to particular food items, according to researchers from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. This study would help them to cultivate some treatments that can prevent or minimize the problems related to childhood food allergies.

"We found a link between children who had hyperactive immune cells at birth and the development of allergies to milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat and other common foods in their first years of life," said Len Harrison, who led the research along with Yuxia Zhang, in a press release.

Examining the three-fold increase in hospital visits due to food allergies, mostly for children under 5 years, the study reveals that babies who develop allergies get "primed" for the disease when they are born.

"In at-risk babies, immune cells called monocytes were activated before or during birth," added Zhang. "Signals from these cells encouraged the development of immune responses by specialized immune cells called T cells that were predisposed to cause allergic reactions to some foods."

With the help of food allergy data collected from the Barwon Infant Study (BIS), studying more than 1,000 pregnant women and their babies, the scientists looked at the issues of immunity, allergy, respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological development.

The team is now trying to identify the reason for these hyperactive immune cells that stoke allergies.

"Are the immune cells inherently activated because of the baby's genes or do they become activated at the time of birth or earlier in pregnancy, and how?" asked Harrison. "This study really emphasizes how critical it is to look at pregnancy and early life to really understand why chronic immune and inflammatory disorders such as allergies develop in childhood and later."

The study was published in the Jan. 13 issue of Science Translational Medicine.

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