Food allergies are a growing health burden in early childhood; however, little has been known about the immunological causes, with few explanations for the increased susceptibility in infants.
Now, a recent study provides new information showing infants may be primed for food allergies at birth.
Using a population-derived cohort from the Barwon Infant Study (BIS), researchers analysed immune and inflammatory factors in the cord blood of infants at birth.
In the children who developed food allergies, the cord blood revealed increased monocyte numbers with decreased numbers of the regulatory T cells. Additionally, the monocytes excreted higher levels of inflammatory cytokines, suppressed the anti-inflammatory IL-2 and showed skewed differentiation towards the allergy T helper 2 phenotype.
The authors concluded that “infants prone to food allergy display a hyper-responsive innate immune state at birth... These findings provide a mechanistic explanation for susceptibility to food allergy in infants and suggest that anti- inflammatory approaches may be beneficial in its prevention.”
- Zhang Y, Collier F, Naselli G, et al. Cord blood monocyte–derived inflammatory cytokines suppress IL-2 and induce nonclassic “TH2- type” immunity associated with development of food allergy. Sci Transl Med 2016;8(321):321ra8. [Abstract]