Brussels, 14 Sep 2006
An EU-funded project has developed a database to track the 50 factors that may cause allergies in children. The European model has attracted interest overseas form countries wishing to adopt the idea. The prevalence of asthma and other allergy symptoms is increasing worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. About 150 million people suffer from asthma - 50 per cent of those affected are adults and while at least 80 per cent are children. In Europe, 80 million adults over the age of 16 years have allergies, and up to one in four of them have asthma. Children suffer more than adults - one child in four has allergies in Europe, and in some areas this has risen to one in three.
The global allergy and asthmas European network (GA2LEN) was set up to address aspects and possible causes of allergy, with the aim of reducing the allergy and asthma burden throughout Europe. GA2LEN received €14.4 million under the 'food quality and safety' priority of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), and brings together 30 researchers and their teams from across Europe. They standardised a series of child 20 cohorts, looking at allergies such as asthma, hay fever and eczema.
From these cohorts, the consortium was able to put together information on some of the 50 known factors influencing allergies for analysis. According to Dr Susanne Lau, responsible for the cohort project, the database opens up new possibilities for greater accuracy in assessing not only the risks associated with the development of allergy but also the factors that may play a role in prevention. 'This large, standardised data base, plus the harmonisation of follow up procedures and study design, can increase the quality of the studies and therefore contribute to worldwide understanding of the factors influencing allergy diseases.'
Some of the variables recorded in the database include pet exposure, tobacco smoke exposure, number of siblings, atopic family history, housing conditions, delivery, medications, infections, and the results of allergen testing, such as IgE (Immunoglobulin E - the antibody implicated in immune reactions) both in the child's blood and in umbilical cord blood as the child was born.
One sub-sample lists the results of skin prick IgE tests for of 1,000 children during the first six years of life. Each child was tested for grass, tree pollen, mite, cat, dog, cow's milk and hen's egg allergens. These results, the consortium says. can be correlated with assessments of the symptoms associated with asthma (wheezing) and allergic rhinitis in the same sub-group.
The database has attracted interest from a research team in Australia which has asked permission to use the European model for a dataset on allergies for the Asia-Pacific region.Further information: