Food Allergies Linked to Hyperactive Immune System at Birth

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  • Food allergies linked to hyperactive immune system at birth: According to a new Australian study recently published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, a link between food allergies and an overactive immune system at birth has been found. The research team from the Walter + Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Parkville lead by  Dr Yuxia Zhang observed that babies carrying these overactive cells, or “monocytes,” at or prior to birth were at greater risk of developing food allergies. The study was based on 1,000 pregnant women and their babies, examining immunity, allergies, and respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological development. Food allergies have increased greatly over the last ten years. In Australia, one in ten children develops a food allergy before their fifth birthday. As many as 15 million people in the US suffer from food allergies, with approximately 4-6% of children. In Europe, average rates are 3.2% for adults and 4.2% for children. As Associate Professor Peter Vuillermin, who participated on the research, explained: “We don’t know why the increase in food allergy has occurred. 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.” The next step for scientists is to examine why some babies have these hyperactive immune cells at birth whereas others don’t, and to establish whether the phenomenon is genetic or occurs at or after birth. The study has underlined the importance of studying pregnancy and the first moments of life to understand why chronic immune and inflammatory disorders like allergies develop in childhood and later in life.
  • The Zika virus and what you should know about it:  According to CDC (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Zika virus is spread to people through bites of the Aedes aegypti species mosquitoes. This mosquito can also spread dengue fever, chikungunya, yellow fever viruses, and other diseases. The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon. In December 2015, Puerto Rico reported its first confirmed Zika virus case. Locally transmitted Zika has not been reported elsewhere in the United States, but cases of Zika have been reported in returning travelers. There is currently no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika. Travelers can protect themselves from this disease by taking steps to prevent mosquito bites. When traveling to countries where Zika virus (see map) or other viruses spread by mosquitoes have been reported, use insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants, and stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens.
Aedes aegypti mosquito, photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Aedes aegypti mosquito, photo courtesy of Wikipedia

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