Allergies in Europe: Regional Differences in Sensitization Profiles in Children Detected for the First Time

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 (Image: Pixabay CC0)
(Image: Pixabay CC0)

- Medicine & Science

As part of a study led by MedUni Vienna in cooperation with the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and the Karl Landsteiner Private University for Health Sciences (KL) in Krems, a comprehensive European allergy atlas was compiled for the first time using a newly developed test method. Determination of the molecular sensitization patterns of approximately 2800 children from northern, western, central and southern Europe revealed significant regional, climate-related and lifestyle- and diet-dependent differences in sensitization to allergens. The research results provide the basis for new diagnostic and therapeutic methods for allergies as well as for new prevention strategies on a European level. The study has just been published in the top journal -Allergy-.

In most European regions, according to the comprehensive analysis, sensitization to the grass pollen allergen (scientific name: Phl p 1) and the main cat allergen (Fel d 1) dominates, while sensitivity to house dust mite allergens (Der p 1, 2, and 23) varies greatly by region and is lowest in the north. Sensitization to peanut allergens occurs in only a few regions, while fruit allergens (Pru p 3, Act d 1 and 2) are prominent in southern and central Europe. Wasp and other insect allergens are the predominant allergen molecules in northern, western and central Europe, but not in southern Europe.

Comprehensive test method developed
The research team led by Rudolf Valenta of MedUni Vienna’s Institute of Pathophysiology and Allergy Research, in cooperation with the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, arrived at these and other findings by examining IgE sensitization patterns in nine different population-based cohorts from different geographical regions in northern, western, central and southern Europe. IgE (immunoglobulins E) are antibodies whose presence in the blood indicates allergic sensitization. In total, the cohorts analyzed in the study included blood samples from 2855 children aged 1 to 16 years, so that not only the number and type, but also the development of IgE sensitization from early childhood to adolescence could be recorded. For this purpose, the research team developed a new test method (allergen microarray) that covers 176 allergen molecules and proved superior to previously available diagnostic tests in terms of scope and sensitivity.

-The results of our analysis provide for the first time a comprehensive atlas of the molecular IgE sensitization rates and patterns of the population from different regions of Europe," emphasizes study leader Rudolf Valenta. The researchers attribute the differences in sensitization to allergens to the climatic characteristics, living and eating habits of the various regions and the associated exposome. This is the total exposure of the human body to individual allergen molecules. As the study showed, among other things, children who grew up in hot and dry regions of a country were less than half as likely to exhibit IgE sensitization than children from areas with moderate climates. -Understanding sensitization patterns in different regions is important for accurate diagnosis of allergies and forms the basis for new treatment and prevention strategies across Europe-, Valenta says. Precision medicine approaches, i.e. allergen-specific immunotherapy as well as dietary and allergen avoidance measures that can be adapted to the molecular sensitization patterns, are the first things to come to mind.

The research work was carried out, among others, with the support of the Province of Lower Austria within the framework of the Danube Allergy Research Cluster (Danube ARC) - Center of Excellence for Allergy Research at the Karl Landsteiner Private University for Health Sciences in Krems.

Publication: Allergy
A molecular sensitization map of European children reveals exposomeand climate-dependent sensitization profiles M. B. Gea Kiewiet, Christian Lupinek, Susanne Vrtala, Sandra Wieser, Alexandra Baar, Renata Kiss, Inger Kull, Eric Melén, Magnus Wickman, Daniela Porta, Davide Gori, Ulrike Gehring, Rob Aalberse, Jordi Sunyer, Marie Standl, Joachim Heinrich, Dagmar Waiblinger, John Wright, Josep M. Antó, Jean Bousquet, Marianne van Hage, Rudolf Valenta
doi: 10.1111/all.15689