According to a new study, breakdown of the skin barrier along with inflammation seen in eczema may be triggering food sensitivity in babies.
In other words - food allergies may be developing via immune cells in the skin rather than the gut, highlighting eczema as a potential target for preventing food allergy in children.
This study adds to growing evidence of the skin barrier's role in food allergies.
Nearly 1 in 5 children in the UK suffer from eczema. The impact on the lives of patients and their families is significant, requiring hospitalization in some cases.
Previous studies have shown that people with skin barrier defects such as eczema are not well protected against allergens. In this study, researchers found that infants with impaired skin barriers, especially if they also have eczema, are over six times more likely than healthy infants to be sensitized to foods such as eggs, cow's milk and peanuts.
Over 600 three-month-old babies who were exclusively breastfed from birth were included in this study. They were examined for eczema, how much water their skin was able to retain and screened for gene mutations associated with eczema.
Next, they were given skin prick tests to evaluate their reactions to the six most common allergenic foods. Egg white was found to be the most common allergen, followed by cow's milk and peanuts. The more severe the eczema, the stronger was the correlation with food sensitivity, regardless of genetic factors.
The infants in this study were exclusively breast-fed, suggesting that active immune cells in the skin rather than gut may play a crucial role in food sensitization. Breakdown of the skin barrier may leave skin immune cells exposed to allergens such as food proteins, triggering an allergic response.
Interestingly, this study opens up the possibility that repairing the skin barrier and preventing eczema might help in future to reduce the risk of food allergies.
Source: Eczema: Role in Food Allergies?