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UK & World

Food allergies in children linked to baby wipes, study finds

April 6 2018

Scientists have found a link between food allergies in children and the use of baby wipes.A US study found genetics and skin exposure to baby wipes, dust and food are all factors behind increasing levels of children with food allergies.Lead study author Joan Cook-Mills, a professor of allergy-immunology at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, described the findings as a “major advance in our understanding of how food allergy starts early in life”.Almost one in 12 young children suffer from a food allergy in the UK and they are becoming increasingly common.Prof Cook-Mills said the findings show parents and care-givers can reduce the risk of food allergies in children by making simple changes in the home.She said: “Reduce baby’s skin exposure to the food allergens by washing your hands before handling the baby.“Limit use of infant wipes that leave soap on the skin. Rinse soap off with water like we used to do years ago.”Researchers said clinical evidence shows that up to 35% of children with food allergies have atopic dermatitis, much of which is explained by at least three different gene mutations that reduce the skin barrier.They used a neonatal mouse model with skin barrier mutations and tried exposing its skin to food allergens like peanuts, finding the peanuts alone had no effect.Prof Cook-Mills went on: “Then I thought about what are babies exposed to.“They are exposed to environmental allergens in dust in a home. They may not be eating food allergens as a newborn, but they are getting them on their skin.“Say a sibling with peanut butter on her face kisses the baby. Or a parent is preparing food with peanuts and then handles the baby.”With regard to baby wipes, Prof Cook-Mills said that as the top skin layer is made of lipids (fats), the soap in the wipes disrupts that barrier.They found skin problems that occur with skin barrier mutations may not be visible until long after a food allergy has already started.The team found neonatal mice with the mutations had normal-appearing skin, and the dry itchy skin of dermatitis did not develop until the mice were a few months old, the equivalent of a young adult in human years.After the neonatal mice received three to four skin exposures of food and dust allergens for 40 minutes during a two-week period, they were given egg or peanuts by mouth.The mice had allergic reactions at the site of skin exposure, allergic reactions in the intestine, and the severe allergic food reaction of anaphylaxis that is measured by decreased body temperature.Prof Cook-Mills said the mice studies provide a basis to test ways of preventing the development of food allergy in children.The findings are published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

UK & World

Peter Rabbit team apologises for making light of allergies

February 12 2018

Peter Rabbit filmmakers and the studio behind it are apologising for insensitively depicting a character’s allergy in the film that has prompted backlash online. Sony Pictures said in a joint statement with the filmmakers that “food allergies and are a serious issue” and the film “should not have made light” of a character being allergic to blackberries “even in a cartoonish, slapstick way”. In Peter Rabbit, the character of Mr McGregor is allergic to blackberries. The rabbits fling the fruit at him in a scene and he is forced to use an EpiPen. The charity group Kids with Food Allergies posted a warning about the scene on its Facebook page on Friday prompting some on Twitter to start using the hashtag #boycottpeterrabbit. The group said that allergy jokes are harmful to their community and that making light of the condition “encourages the public not to take the risk of allergic reactions seriously”. Kenneth Mendez, the president and chief executive of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, wrote an open letter to the studio on Saturday asking for the opportunity to educate the company and the film’s cast on the realities of food allergies and urged the studio to “examine your portrayal of bullying in your films geared toward a young audience”. The studio and filmmakers said that they, “Sincerely regret not being more aware and sensitive to this issue, and we truly apologise.”

Motoring news

Audi’s new Q cars

April 12 2017

Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space…


Dust may cause peanut allergy

October 21 2014

A new study has revealed that peanut allergy may be caused by exposure to peanut protein in household dust. Around two per cent of schoolchildren in the UK are allergic to peanuts while severe eczema in early infancy has also been linked to food allergies, particularly peanut allergy. Now researchers at King’s College London, in collaboration with the universities of Dundee and Manchester has discovered the FLG gene, which codes the skin barrier protein filaggrin. Mutations in this gene can cause deficiencies in the skin barrier with allows allergens to penetrate the skin and sensitise the body, They hope the discovery will ultimately help prevent the development of peanut allergy in children who are genetically susceptible to the condition. The study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, found a strong link between children with FLG deficiencies who are exposed to peanut protein in household in the first year of their life and their likelihood of developing a peanut allergy later in life. Researchers looked at the amount of peanut protein children were exposed to in household dust in their first year of life by vacuuming dust from the living room sofa and measuring peanut using a peanut protein antibody assay. A group of 577 children were then assessed at eight and 11 years of age for peanut allergy and their DNA was checked for mutations in the gene encoding filaggrin. It discovered a three-fold increase in house dust peanut exposure during infancy was associated with a three-fold increase in risk of peanut allergy. One in five children with peanut allergy had a FLG mutation. There was no significant effect of environmental peanut exposure in children without FLG mutations. Dr Helen A Brough, first author from the Department of Paediatric Allergy, King’s College London, said: “Our findings provide evidence that peanut allergy may develop via the skin in children with mutations in the gene that codes for filaggrin that damage the function of this important skin protein. “These findings are also an example of how an individual’s response to their environment can be modified by their genes. Our study raises the possibility of being able to identify a group of children with FLG mutations through genetic testing in the future, and altering their environmental exposure to peanut early in life to reduce the risk of developing peanut allergy.” Over the past two years the King’s team has been investigating the level of peanut protein in household dust, how this correlates with household peanut consumption, and how peanut protein in dust can trigger an immune response in the cells of children who are allergic to peanut. Peanut protein is present on hands and in saliva for up to three hours after peanuts or peanut-based food has been eaten, and can persist on table surfaces and sofa or pillow dust even after routine cleaning. Professor Irwin McLean and Dr Sara Brown from the University of Dundee collaborated on the study with the King’s and Manchester researchers.

Business news

Omega to build allergen bank after £1.8m grant

August 2 2016

Shares in Scottish life sciences firm Omega Diagnostics spiked in early trading after it secured major new investment for its allergens business. The Alva-based group saw its stock rise by more than 9% after Scottish Enterprise signed off on a £1.8 million research and development grant. The company said the allocation represented a “significant contribution towards the total R&D project costs” to fund the planned expansion of its Allersys range of reagents used in allergy in-vitro diagnostics. The cash will be used over the next three years to almost treble the number of validated allergens on the Allersys platform to 120. A portion of the grant will also be used to establish a global health scientific team to screen future product opportunities in resource-limited settings. Founder and chief executive Andrew Shepherd said the new funding would help Omega to exploit the commercial opportunity offered by the allergy field. Research from the World Allergy Organisation estimates that between 30% and 40% of the global population is affected by one or more allergic diseases. The allergy diagnostics market is forecast to achieve a compound annual growth rate of 12.67% through to 2019. Mr Shepherd said: “We are delighted with this level of commitment from Scottish Enterprise which has supported the company over a number of years. “Teams from both organisations worked hard to deliver an outcome that will support economic growth in Scotland, as well as providing new products with global export potential.” Jim Watson, SE’s director of innovation and enterprise services, said the investment gave Omega a commercial advantage over its rivals. “This R&D grant, together with the company’s investment in its Alva site, means Omega can expand its current product range to target new export markets in an accelerated timeframe, giving Omega excellent competitive advantage,” Mr Watson said. “As Scotland’s innovation agency, we support innovative companies like Omega to achieve their global growth ambitions quickly. “It’s also fantastic to see this grant helping Omega to recruit 14 new skilled staff at its Alva facility over the next three years.”


More children suffering food allergies

August 12 2010

The number of children in Tayside with genuine food allergies has risen steadily over the last eight years, according to a Ninewells Hospital specialist. Consultant pediatrician Dr Mohammed Ibrahim is seeing six new patients every week with complex allergies to more than one food. That figure does not take into account the number of children who present with suspected allergies or more mild allergies that are also referred to the hospital. Dr Ibrahim said parents are increasingly using the internet in an attempt to home diagnose their children by matching symptoms to an allergy. He said, “One of the problems is there are no accurate statistics on the number of children who have allergies. “There has been a steady increase in the number of cases over the past few years since I began working at the allergy clinic, but if you go back to 1998 there wasn’t an allergy clinic at all. “What we find is children with allergies to milk and egg are more likely to go on to have allergies to other foods. “Parents go on the internet to explain their child’s symptoms and by matching their symptoms they come to believe their child has an allergy.” Dr Ibrahim continued, “The internet is useful because it increases awareness, but too much involvement without the proper background can place an unnecessary burden of the child.” New figures from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) show more than two million children in the UK are wrongly labelled as having a food allergy, which can lead to being placed on unnecessary diets. Tayside area medical committee chairman Dr Andrew Cowie reckons the region is largely bucking that trend, having heard few reports of complaints from parents or doctors. “There is a difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance that can often lead to confusion. “I wouldn’t say misdiagnosis is something that causes many GPs a lot of trouble in Tayside. It is not a problem that often comes up.” In the past 20 years hospital admissions for food allergies among children have risen by 500%. Between 6% and 8% of children under three in Europe and North America are now thought to have food allergies and the problem is now recognised as a major paediatric issue in the UK. The most common foods to cause allergic reactions are cow’s milk, fish, shellfish, eggs, peanuts, sesame, soy, wheat and kiwi fruit. Photo used under Creative Commons licence courtesy of Flickr user AutisticMajor.

Road tests

Audi Q2 puts quality over size

March 21 2018

Audi’s Q2 was one of the first premium compact SUVs on the market. It sits below the Q3, Q5 and the gigantic, seven seat Q7 in Audi’s ever growing range. Although it’s about the same size as the Nissan Juke or Volkswagen T-Roc, its price is comparable with the much larger Nissan X-Trail or Volkswagen Tiguan. Even a basic Q2 will set you back more than £21,000 and top whack is £38,000. Then there’s the options list which is extensive to say the least. My 2.0 automatic diesel Quattro S Line model had a base price of £30,745 but tipped the scales at just over £40,000 once a plethora of additions were totted up. Size isn’t everything, however. In recent years there’s been a trend of buyers wanting a car that’s of premium quality but compact enough to zip around town. It may be a step down in size but the Q2 doesn’t feel any less classy than the rest of Audi’s SUV range. The interior looks great and is user friendly in a way that more mainstream manufacturers have never been able to match. The simple rotary dial and shortcut buttons easily trounce touchscreen systems, making it a cinch to skim through the screen’s menus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eQ5p5Z7-Ek&list=PLUEXizskBf1nbeiD_LqfXXsKooLOsItB0 There’s a surprising amount of internal space too. I took three large adults from Dundee to Stirling and no one complained about feeling cramped. As long as you don’t have a tall passenger behind a tall driver you can easily fit four adults. At 405 litres the boot’s big too – that’s 50 litres more than a Nissan Juke can muster. Buyers can pick from 1.0 and 1.4 litre petrol engines or 1.6 and 2.0 litre TDIs. Most Q2s are front wheel drive but Audi’s Quattro system is standard on the 2.0 diesel, as is a seven-speed S Tronic gear box. On the road there’s a clear difference between this and SUVs by manufacturers like Nissan, Seat and Ford. Ride quality, while firm, is tremendously smooth. Refinement is excellent too, with road and tyre noise kept out of the cabin. It sits lower than the Q3 or Q5 and this improves handling, lending the Q2 an almost go-kart feel. On a trip out to Auchterhouse, with plenty of snow still on the ground, I was appreciative of the four-wheel drive as well. The Q2 is expensive – though there are some good finance deals out there – but you get what you pay for. Few cars this small feel as good as the Q2 does. Price: £30,745 0-62mph: 8.1 seconds Top speed: 131mph Economy: 58.9mpg CO2 emissions: 125g/km


Dundee University scientists report possible peanut allergy breakthrough

March 11 2011

Scientists at Dundee University have helped uncover a genetic defect that can triple the risk of a child developing a life-threatening peanut allergy. Peanut allergy affects 1-2% of all children, but rates of the condition have increased dramatically over the past 30 years although no one knows why. Now research led by scientists in Dundee has identified the key role the gene Filaggrin can have in causing the condition. Filaggrin has previously been shown by the team to be a significant factor in causing eczema and asthma, conditions often linked to peanut allergy. “It was a logical next step to investigate whether Filaggrin may also be a cause of peanut allergy, since a child may develop all three of these diseases together,” said Dr Sara Brown, Wellcome Trust intermediate clinical fellow in the division of molecular medicine at Dundee. “Allergic conditions often run in families, which tells us that inherited genetic factors are important. In addition to that, changes in the environment and our exposure to peanuts are thought to have been responsible for the recent increase in peanut allergy seen in the western world in particular. “Now for the first time we have a genetic change that can be firmly linked to peanut allergy.” Filaggrin gene codes are for a protein that helps to make the skin a barrier against irritants and allergies. Any changes to the gene reduce the skin’s effectiveness as a barrier and result in more substances entering the body, which can then trigger allergic reactions. The study has found that one in five peanut allergy sufferers have a Filaggrin defect and that those with a defect are three times as likely to suffer a peanut allergy than those with a normal gene. “We knew that people with a Filaggrin defect were likely to suffer from eczema, and that many of those people also had peanut allergy,” said Professor Irwin McLean, who is also based at Dundee. “What we have now shown is that the Filaggrin defect is there for people who have peanut allergy but who don’t have eczema, which shows a clear link between Filaggrin and peanut allergy. “The Filaggrin defect is not the cause of peanut allergy but we have established it as a factor in many cases. We don’t yet know enough about the causes of peanut allergy but this is an important step forward.” The findings are published today in theJournal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Professor McLean said the Filaggrin findings suggest peanut allergy may be caused by substances entering the body through the skin though it could also have an effect in the gastro-intestinal area. He also stressed that, as Filaggrin defects were found in one in five peanut allergy cases, more research must be carried out into the genetic risk factors for the condition. Photo by Flickr user EuroMagic.

“Help me I can’t breathe”: dairy allergy student killed by burger

January 9 2018

Tearful students told today how their friend with a dairy allergy fell ill and collapsed “very very suddenly” after eating a burger marinated in butter milk. The girls night out ended in tragedy when gifted university undergraduate Shahida Shahid, 18, suffered a fatal allergic reaction to her meal, begging: “Help me. I can’t breathe,” Manchester Coroner’s Court heard. Shahida, who the inquest jury have heard was always careful about what she ate, had discussed the menu and her allergies with the waiter at Almost Famous burger restaurant in Manchester city centre, before eating her meal. But after leaving the restaurant the teenager, studying a masters in mathematics at Manchester University suddenly became seriously unwell from the allergic reaction. She suffered severe brain damage, “not compatible with life” and died in hospital on January 12, 2015, three days after eating the burger. Shahida, from Worsley, Salford, had been with four other college friends who had met up on the evening of January 9, 2015, over the Christmas holidays to discuss their first term after each starting university. Shahida Shahid (Slater and Gordon) Lauren Davies said they had been out for a meal “lots of times” and “every time” Shahida would discuss with the waiter what she could eat due to her allergies. At the restaurant Shahida ordered an Awesome Fricken Chicken Sandwich, the order taken by waiter and bartender Reiss Balfour. Miss Davies said: “Shahida went first because she always asked about what she can have and what she’s allergic to, she is there longer than all of us and asked for advice. “He went to talk to someone because I don’t think he was sure and I think he came back and said she could have this but without the coleslaw and sauce. “I definitely heard her talk about her allergies.” After the meal they walked to the Printworks complex of bars where Shahida went from “laughing and joking” to feeling unwell and sat down outside a bar. Miss Davies continued: “She just told me she felt hot. I went to crouch down to see if she was ok.“She was quite sweaty and started saying she was quite itchy. I think she was scratching her arms and legs and at one point she said she was having an allergic reaction. “I was trying to keep her calm and she told us to get her epi-pen out of her bag.” Another friend Hollie Blaydes said Shahida had previously shown them how to use her epi-pen in case of emergency, and another friend Nahla Halabi, jabbed her with the device in the right upper thigh over her clothes to deliver the medicine. However the epi-pen, which the inquest heard was “just” out of date, did not have any effect.Security guards working at the venue, Imran Farooqi and Avais Ali, then came over to help. Mr Farooqi said Shahida’s face and neck became swollen and he thought she had suffered an anaphylactic shock. (Slater and Gordon) He said: “Her face was going purple, she was scratching herself vigorously.“I grabbed hold of her and I heard a, ‘Help’ sort of thing come out. We tried everything we could do for this young girl.” Shahida was put into recovery position and Mr Ali began CPR, the teenager repeatedly vomiting as Mr Imran continued attempting mouth to mouth resuscitation. Mr Ali said before Shahida lost consciousness she was asked about a possible allergic reaction. But Mr Ali said she replied: “That’s not the issue because I clearly told the waiter. It can’t be that.” Shortly after he said Shahida said: “Please help me, I’m struggling to breath.” He added: “She kind of fainted and started frothing from her mouth.” An ambulance was called but paramedic Matthew Schenck said Shahida was not breathing and there was no heart activity detected. The hearing continues. (function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i['GoogleAnalyticsObject']=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,'script','//www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js','ga'); ga('create', 'UA-72310761-1', 'auto', {'name': 'pacontentapi'}); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'referrer', location.origin); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension1', 'By Pat Hurst, Press Association'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension2', '64bfa444-922d-4b3c-9b33-6be840e0a485'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension3', 'paservice:news,paservice:news:uk'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension6', 'story-enriched'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension7', 'composite'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension8', null); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension9', null); ga('pacontentapi.send', 'pageview', { 'location': location.href, 'page': (location.pathname + location.search + location.hash), 'title': 'u201CHelp me I canu2019t breatheu201D: dairy allergy student killed by burger'});

Business news

Progress for Omega’s HIV test

December 21 2013

Scottish life sciences firm Omega Diagnostics has hailed a breakthrough in the development of its flagship HIV test. The Alva-based outfit has spent the past four months trying to identify and eliminate an anomaly that arose during pre-production of its CD4 test. The product has sparked international interest as it has the potential to identify those at heightened risk of having the AIDS pre-cursor virus through a simple pinprick blood test with an almost immediate outcome. It is expected the test could prove extremely useful in remote areas and in third world communities around the globe where access to mainstream healthcare is a major issue. AIM-listed Omega, which also has interests in the allergy, food intolerance and infectious diseases fields, yesterday said it had made significant progress in eliminating the “technology transfer” issues experienced during production of the CD4 test. “As reported last month with the interim results, we selected a preferred manufacturing protocol to proceed to a three-batch validation,” Omega said in an update to the markets yesterday. “The company is pleased to announce that it has produced a first reference batch which, when tested on patient samples, has produced results which are within the agreed design specification for the accuracy of the test and which demonstrate a significant reduction in the levels of variability previously reported. “This is an important milestone in the technology transfer project and we will proceed to test the protocol with further independent manufacturing runs. “The board has increased confidence in successfully completing the three-batch validation and, given the proximity to Christmas, we will provide a further update early in the New Year.” Despite the delays, the firm has previously said it expected both CD4 and its latest generation allergy test IDS-iSYS to be earnings enhancing in the coming financial year. Analyst Keith Redpath of house broker finnCap yesterday said the production milestone was “pivotal result” for the company. “Two further batches will need to be tested on patient samples and if they also meet the predetermined specification, then Omega will have a robust manufacturing process for the diagnostic,” Mr Redpath said. “The results from this first batch increase our confidence that the technology transfer is nearing a successful conclusion. “Completion of the technology transfer and manufacturing scale up would enable Omega to supply product for field trials.” The update gave some pre-Christmas cheer to investors yesterday and shares in Omega closed the day up 1.38% at 18.75p.