Research highlight

Peanut allergies - a hard nut to crack

Nature Communications

February 25, 2015

A large public study to identify susceptibility to common food allergies has revealed novel genetic variations associated with an allergy to peanuts, reports a paper published in Nature Communications. This is the first large genome-wide association study to look at defined allergies and suggests that peanut allergies might be genetically distinct from other food allergies.

Food allergies, which affect between 2% to 10% of children in the USA, represent a disproportionate number of food allergy related anaphylaxis and can negatively affect the quality of life of someone with severe allergies. Prevention and treatment has been hampered by a lack of understanding of the biological mechanisms underlying the allergy.

Xiaobin Wang and colleagues genotyped almost 3,000 children and parents from the Chicago Food Allergy Study to determine which variants were associated with food allergies. While egg and milk allergies showed no associated genetic variants, peanut allergies were strongly associated with specific variations in DNA and changes at an epigenetic level in the HLA-DR and DQ gene regions. The products of these genes are known to play critical roles in the development of allergies.

The findings open up avenues of future research to help further our understanding of the biological basis underpinning the risk of peanut allergies and may aid in the development of new detection and treatment strategies.

doi: 10.1038/ncomms7304

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