Atopic dermatitis plus food allergy is a unique subtype of eczema


By Margaret W. Crane

Published On: Sep 23, 2019

Last Updated On: Nov 4, 2020

Researchers at National Jewish Health in Denver examined the skin of children who have AD combined with food allergies and found characteristics that are unique to the dual condition compared to AD alone.

The research team, headed by Donald Y.M. Leung, MD, collected skin samples from 62 children from 4 to 17 years of age and divided them into three groups: those with both AD and food allergy, AD alone or neither condition.

They applied small, clear strips of tape to both inflamed and normal-looking skin—a minimally invasive technique—and proceeded to measure the proteins, fats and microbial populations found in samples from each of the three patient groups.

The skin from children with both AD and food allergy had different genetic, molecular and structural characteristics from the skin of children with AD alone as well as the group with neither condition.

The skin from the first group showed lower levels of filaggrin, a protein that helps seal the skin and lock in moisture. The amount of water loss through the skin barrier was also greater in these children’s skin than in the skin samples collected from the other two groups.

Skin from the children with both AD and food allergies also showed higher concentrations of staph than the skin from children in the other two groups.

The findings were published in the February 2019 issue of Science Translational Medicine.

What was surprising, said Leung in a report issued by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), was that his team identified the unique profile of the AD-food allergy combination via samples taken from clear skin, not from the eczema-inflamed skin samples.

Of the total number of people with AD, one-third have food allergies.

As food allergies usually show up after the onset of eczema symptoms in children with AD, the new information uncovered by Leung and his colleagues could help fine-tune the treatment of the dual condition and even prevent the development of food allergy by treating the child’s AD early and aggressively.

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