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Thursday, September 14, 2006

GA2LEN - European Allergy Database

The number and percentage of people with allergies continue to soar, worldwide. Scientists and others have many hypotheses concerning why this might be happening now, but the variety of allergies and symptoms are so great that it's next to impossible to make a coherent whole of the mishmosh of info.

A project funded by the European Union hopes to pound some sense into the shapeless mass of data with GA2LEN – The Global Asthma and Asthmas European Network. (Galen was the name of a renowned 2nd century Greek physician whose major work was the seventeen-volume On the Usefulness of the Parts of the Human Body.)

GA2LEN will fund a study to track the 50 factors that may cause allergies in children. According to an article on Cordis:

The global allergy and asthmas European network (GA2LEN) was set up to address aspects and possible causes of allergy, with the aim of reducing the allergy and asthma burden throughout Europe. GA2LEN received €14.4 million under the 'food quality and safety' priority of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), and brings together 30 researchers and their teams from across Europe. They standardised a series of child 20 cohorts, looking at allergies such as asthma, hay fever and eczema.

From these cohorts, the consortium was able to put together information on some of the 50 known factors influencing allergies for analysis. According to Dr Susanne Lau, responsible for the cohort project, the database opens up new possibilities for greater accuracy in assessing not only the risks associated with the development of allergy but also the factors that may play a role in prevention. 'This large, standardised data base, plus the harmonisation of follow up procedures and study design, can increase the quality of the studies and therefore contribute to worldwide understanding of the factors influencing allergy diseases.'

Some of the variables recorded in the database include pet exposure, tobacco smoke exposure, number of siblings, atopic family history, housing conditions, delivery, medications, infections, and the results of allergen testing, such as IgE (Immunoglobulin E - the antibody implicated in immune reactions) both in the child's blood and in umbilical cord blood as the child was born.

One sub-sample lists the results of skin prick IgE tests for of 1,000 children during the first six years of life. Each child was tested for grass, tree pollen, mite, cat, dog, cow's milk and hen's egg allergens. These results, the consortium says. can be correlated with assessments of the symptoms associated with asthma (wheezing) and allergic rhinitis in the same sub-group.

The Australians are already asking permission to use GA2LEN to develop a similar database on Asian-Pacific allergies. Perhaps the U.S. and Canada will be next. They should be. This would be an issue that might be speeded up if you were to write you representatives in Congress.

More information can be found on the public page on the GA2LEN website.

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