Researchers from Australia have discovered a new pattern in the core blood at birth that may indentify those babies who were most likely to develop a food allergy before their first birthday.
According to the study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the babies who had hyperactive immune cells at birth had an increased risk of become allergic to one or more of the common allergy foods, such as milk, eggs, peanuts and wheat. More than 1,000 pregnant women and their babies participated in this research, where investigators took note of their immunity and allergy, as well as respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological development.
“The important thing about this study is that we’ve shown the immune systems of babies who develop food allergy are in a sense ‘primed’ for allergic disease by the time they are born,” said lead researcher Associate Professor Peter Vuillermin in a press release.
“This study is very interesting because we already know that allergies are something where the immune system is in overdrive,” Purvi Parikh, MD, an adult and pediatric allergist and immunologist with the Allergy & Asthma Network, tells Yahoo Health. “So the fact that a food allergy is already developing in pregnancy could mean one of two things—it’s either genetic or environmental.”
Dr. Parikh is hopeful that future research may lead to possible preventive treatments. “Perhaps it may gave us insight into things we can do in the prenatal period that may help avoid children from developing food allergies or lessen the risk of them developing one.”
She also believes the study investigators will look more closely at genetic links, as well as the mother’s location during pregnancy “and any other lifestyle habits that may have predisposed their child or not.”
Another possible focus—diet. “Food allergies, in general, are on the rise and that may be due to a combination of our lifestyles becoming more industrialized and eating more processed foods,” concludes Dr. Parikh. “We’re no longer exposed to the good bacteria that make our immune systems stronger, which is one reason that’s believed why there are so many more allergies today.”