Researchers have found new genetic factors linked to peanut allergy and food allergy. This discovery offers further evidence of the role of genes in these conditions, and it should clarify directions for future research and new diagnostics and treatments.
In a paper published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the Canadian team explains how it scanned millions of genetic markers in nearly 1,900 people and re-analyzed data pooled from six other genetic studies to reach the new findings.
Food allergy arises when the body’s immune system wrongly reacts to a specific food as if it were a harmful substance. The symptoms and severity of the reaction can be different in different people, as well as different in the same person at different times. Sometimes they can be sudden and life-threatening, such as in anaphylaxis.
Research suggests that around 4 percent of children and teenagers are affected by food allergy in the United States, where eight types of food account for 90 percent of cases. These food types are peanuts, tree nuts, milk, fish, eggs, crustacean shellfish, soy, and wheat.
“One of the hurdles in developing new treatments for food allergies,” explains co-first author Aida Eslami, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia in Canada, “is identifying the specific genes and pathways we need to target.”
The new study is the first to link a known gene called c11orf30/EMSY (EMSY) to food allergy.