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Eczema link to cats

24th June 2008

A study by scientists at the University of Dundee has found that if babies are around cat allergens they may develop eczema if they have a "key gene fault".

cat

Babies with the FLG gene had double the risk of developing eczema in their first year. If they were exposed to cat allergens the likelihood of eczema quadrupled.

A UK expert has said that the opposite could be true, as research has shown exposure to cats could "actually reduce the risk of eczema".

The study looked at 892 babies from the UK and Denmark and published the results in the Public Library of Science journal.

The team found that if a baby was around dog allergens it had no effect on their propensity to develop the condition.

Eczema causes dry, irritated skin and recent statistics have shown that the condition is on the increase in the UK.

The Dundee team worked with teams from Manchester and Copenhagen universities to discover what effect feline, canine and dust mite allergens had on children who carried the FLG gene.

The researchers wrote: "Our data suggest that cat but not dog ownership substantially increases the risk of eczema in the first year of life in children with FLG 'loss of function' variants".

However, Dr Michael Cork, a dermatology expert from the University of Sheffield, said the study was not a large one.

He said: "There is plenty of other evidence that exposure to cats can actually protect against the development of eczema.

"It is possible that it could actually induce tolerance in children."

 

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