Allergies could begin before a baby is even born, new research from Australia indicates.
The study of one-year-old babies tried to pinpoint why and when food allergies occur by analyzing their environmental and genetic changes.
Dr. David Martino, from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Victoria, said their study of 12 infants found preliminary evidence of pre-birth programming of food allergies.
He believes epigenetics, the process that turn genes on and off in response to the environment, was vital to uncovering the clues about the origin of allergies.
One in 10 babies in the state of Victoria are diagnosed with a food allergy.
“Lifestyles and environmental exposures can change the epigenetic switches on your DNA; for instance, it can cause the gene for food allergies to express themselves too strongly,” he said.
His study measured DNA methylation - an epigenetic mechanism that controls whether genes are turned up or down or switched on or off - in blood samples from babies with food allergies.
“We found several switches that were different in the children with food allergies that occurred in some important immune genes," Martino said.
They found preliminary evidence that specific immune genes were disrupted in the children. They then looked at cord blood samples from the same children, collected at birth, and found the same disruptions existed in the blood, suggesting that the changes occurred very early in the baby’s development.