Good news, peanut allergy sufferers. Researchers say they have found a gene linked to peanut allergies, which could allow for new and earlier treatment options in the future.
The finding, led by scientists from the University of British Columbia in Canada, was published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
The gene is called (deep breath) c11orf30/EMSY, or EMSY for short (phew). It was already known to have a role in other allergy-related conditions such as eczema, asthma, and allergic rhinitis. However, this is the first study to link EMSY to a food allergy.
"Food allergy is the result of both genetic and environmental factors, but there are surprisingly few data regarding the genetic basis of this condition," said Dr Denise Daley from St Paul's Hospital in Vancouver in a statement. "The discovery of this genetic link gives us a fuller picture of the causes of food allergies, and this could eventually help doctors identify children at risk."
In this study, DNA from 850 people with a peanut allergy was analyzed, alongside 1,000 people without a peanut allergy. The team also looked at 7.5 million genetic markers, and they found that EMSY was associated with an increased risk of peanut and food allergy. Five other gene locations were also found to be involved.
The team hope this discovery could help identify children at risk of developing a peanut allergy. Introducing peanuts to children early can help train their immune systems and help prevent an allergy, notes the Vancouver Sun.
The Food and Drug Administration in the US recently approved new peanut allergy food labels to help parents overcome peanut allergies in their children. The risk of developing a peanut allergy can be reduced by 80 percent if peanuts are introduced to infants between the ages of four and eight months.
"One of the hurdles in developing new treatments for food allergies is identifying the specific genes and pathways we need to target," said Dr Aida Eslami, a co-first author on the paper, in a statement. "These results suggest that EMSY could be a useful target for predicting and managing food allergy treatments in the future."
Some estimates suggest as many as 1 percent of people have a peanut allergy. For some people, the symptoms can be severe and even life-threatening, so finding ways to treat or prevent it as early as possible is crucial.