Eczema And Genes.
In the largest genetic study of eczema in the world to date, a group of international researchers led by Dr Lavinia Paternoster from the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit at the University of Bristol (UK), has combined data on 377,000 participants involved in 40 research studies worldwide, including the Bristol-based Children of the 90s (ALSPAC).
The team used a technique called ‘genome-wide association analysis’ to look at the genomes of these 377,000 people and to identify small changes (variants) in the genes commonly found in people with eczema. They found 10 new variants, bringing the total number of variants known to be related to eczema to 31.
What all these new genetic variants have in common is that they all play a role in regulating our immune system, highlighting potential new targets for therapeutic research for eczema. The researchers also found some evidence of genetic overlap between eczema and other diseases like inflammatory bowel disease. This suggests that studying these diseases together in the future could give important insights into the mechanisms of disease and potentially identify new treatments.
Speaking about the discovery, Dr Paternoster said:
‘Though the genetic variants identified in this current study represent only a small proportion of the risk for developing eczema (they are in no way deterministic, rather they slightly increase your risk), they do give new insights into important disease mechanisms and through on-going research in this area these findings could be turned into treatments of the future.’
Dr Sara Brown, an academic dermatologist who contributed to the research from the University of Dundee, said:
‘Eczema runs in families so we know that genetic factors are an important part of the cause. The very large numbers of participants in this research has allowed us to “fine-tune” our understanding of eczema genetic risk, providing more detail on how the skin immune system can go wrong in eczema.’
Eczema And Kid’s Microbiome.
Children with eczema have a more diverse set of bacteria in their guts than non affected children, according to a study in BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Microbiology. The types of bacteria present were also more typical of adult gut microbes than for toddlers without eczema.
Eczema is a chronic inflammation of the epidermis. The gut bacteria of children with or without eczema was examined when they were six and 18 months old. At six months all the infants had the same types of bacteria but by 18 months old the children with eczema had more of a type of bacteria normally associated with adults (Clostridium clusters IV and XIVa) while the healthy children had a greater amount of Bacteroidetes.
MSc Lotta Nylund from University of Turku, Finland, who led the project explained, “The composition of bacteria in a child’s gut depends on its environment and the food it eats. You would expect that as a child’s diet changes so will the bacteria present. The number of bifidobacteria naturally falls with age and in total we found 21 groups of bacteria which changed in this time period. However it is the early change towards adult-type bacteria which seems to be a risk factor for eczema.”