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It runs in the family: Study shows peanut allergies are linked to genes

UBC identifies genes and exposure as triggers for food allergies.

People with certain genes are more susceptible to peanut allergy and other food allergies, according to UBC research.

Patrick Sison / The Associated Press

People with certain genes are more susceptible to peanut allergy and other food allergies, according to UBC research.

If you have a peanut allergy, you can blame it on your genes, according to new research from St. Paul’s Hospital and UBC.

Researchers have pinpointed several genes that are predisposed to peanut allergy and food allergies in general. 

“Now we know that peanut allergy and food allergies are genetic and there are genetic susceptibilities,” said Dr. Denise Daley, principle investigator at the Institute for Heart and Lung Research at St. Paul’s Hospital, and an associate professor at UBC.  

“If you already have somebody in your family that has a peanut allergy, you are more at risk for developing peanut allergy.”

Daley’s team also have reason to believe these specific genes regulate the epigenome, which turns genes on and off depending on environmental exposures. Other studies have shown that not exposing babies to peanuts at an early age actually puts them at greater risk for developing a peanut allergy.

“We are close to being able to identify patients that would be at greater risk [for allergies] and by understanding the mechanism, that also improves our ability to develop treatment,” she said.

The findings could also help those who suffer from other illnesses like hayfever, asthma, or eczema, because the gene responsible for food allergies can also trigger those conditions.

“This study could be a foundation for identifying those who have a genetic disposition and being able to say, what other conditions are you at risk for,” said Daley.

“Eighty per cent of asthmatics also have one or more forms of allergic diseases.”

“It may be that there are differences in the exposures that potentially determine what kind of allergy you get or what your presenting complaints may be.”

About 1 per cent of adults and two to three per cent of children suffer from peanut allergy in Canada.

Researchers analyzed genetic information from 30,000 people in Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, United States, and Germany for this study.

Dr. Yuka Asai, an AllerGen investigator, Assistant professor at Queen’s University, and Adjunct professor at McGill University, and AllerGen trainee Dr. Aida Eslami, a postdoctoral fellow at The University of British Columbia, were co-first authors on the paper.

The study was published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

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