Research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests that changes in a small region of chromosome 6 are risk factors for peanut allergy in U.S. children of European descent. The genetic risk area is located among two tightly linked genes that regulate the presentation of allergens and microbial products to the immune system. This study is the first to use a genome-wide screening approach in patients with well-defined food allergy to identify risks for peanut allergy.
The study included children with or without food allergy and their biological parents, more than 2,700 participants. Importantly, the participants with food allergy were clinically diagnosed, allowing researchers to find risks for well-defined food allergy. Previous efforts to identify genetic risks for allergy have relied on skin prick or blood tests, which measure a person's sensitivity to allergens but cannot reliably diagnose food allergy.
Hong X, Hao K, Ladd-Acosta C et al. Genome-wide association study identifies peanut allergy-specific loci and evidence of epigenetic mediation in U.S. children. Nature Communications DOI: 10.1038/ncomms7304 (2015).
Marshall Plaut, M.D., chief of the Food Allergy, Atopic Dermatitis and Allergic Mechanisms Section in NIAID's Division of Allergy, Immunology and Transplantation, is available to discuss the findings.