Allergy Standards (ASL) attended this year’s European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI) Congress in Munich, Germany from 26-30 May 2018. ASL Senior Project Manager, Jennifer Whelan, and ASL Senior Scientific Officer, Joey DeCourcey, attended the conference and presented innovative research on “Ten years of the asthma & allergy friendly® Certification Program”. Data analysis from our years of attitudinal surveys in the United States were presented at a well-received poster session during the conference.
ASL research on asthma and allergies
Ten years of the asthma & allergy friendly® Certification Program
The attitudes and perceptions of families dealing with asthma and allergy is relevant for the Certification Program, and because of this we have carried out public surveys in the United States over the past ten years. Each of these studies have surveyed over 2,000 adults, and have explored the prevalence of asthma and allergies, concern about the indoor environment, and actions taken to improve indoor air quality.
Household perceptions around indoor air quality
Below are the main takeaways from ASL innovative study.
- In our 2017 survey, 12% of respondents reported having asthma, which is slightly higher than the rate of 7.8% reported by the US Centre for Disease Control.
- Taken at a household level, in 2017 nearly half (47.35%) of respondents reported having at least one person in their household with asthma or nasal allergies. Self-reported rates of asthma and nasal allergies have remained consistent over the course of our surveys, with around 20% of households dealing with asthma and around 40% of households dealing with nasal allergies.
- As would be expected, we found a significant association between the level of concern about air quality in the home, and the presence of asthma or nasal allergies in the home. Households dealing with asthma and nasal allergies in the home are more concerned about the indoor environment.
- Only 12% of our respondents in 2017 reported doing nothing to improve their indoor air environment.
- We asked respondents to tell us which actions they are taking to improve indoor air quality. Again, there was a significant difference between households with asthma or nasal allergies and those without: households with asthma or nasal allergies are significantly more likely to use interventions such as using allergen-barrier bedding, using a humidifier, using special flooring, etc.
- There was also a striking difference in the number of interventions per household; households with asthma or nasal allergies use more interventions than other households.
For Allergy Standards, this research confirms that people are using household interventions to improve the indoor air environment. This demonstrates the value of the asthma & allergy friendly® Certification Program, which can identify products that have been demonstrated to improve the indoor environment through rigourous testing.
The cutting edge in asthma and allergy research presented at EAACI 2018
Leading experts in the field of asthma and allergies also presented their latest research at the conference, below is a summary of just some of the excellent work presented in Munich this year.
Farm to table protection
One of the key focus areas at EAACI this year was regarding the “farm effect”. Protection from asthma and allergies is seen in young children that are exposed to the farming environment in rural areas. Researchers like Erika Von Mutius, Dick Heederick and Donata Vercelli are leading the research effort in identifying what exposures are leading to protection in these children. They presented their work in a session called “Country roads to allergy prevention.” Of particular interest in this session was Prof Erika Von Mutius’ work in identifying novel milk proteins in unpasteurized milk that may lead to protection from asthma and allergies due to a change in the gut bacteria in these children. Given that there is a serious health risk in drinking unpasteurised milk, her research group are trying to partially pasteurise milk and identify the specific attributes that confer protection. This could potentially be turned into a product for children that could help to protect them from contracting asthma and allergies and trials are currently underway.
Working with Mold
Hille Suojalehto presented occupational asthma data from Finland and Europe in a session called “pheno-endotyping occupational asthma in Europe”. Occupational asthma develops due to exposure to irritants or allergens in the work environment. Occupational asthma is different to work exacerbated asthma which is already present and is aggrivated by exposure to usually unknown allergens, irritants or stress. Hille Suaojalehto reported on a number of occupational asthma surveillance systems in Europe that reported cases of occupational asthma noting that there is major problem with under-reporting. Prof. Suaojalehto reported that indoor mold exposure is the most common agent reported to cause occupational asthma in Finland. Despite reports showing mold can aggravate asthma, asthma caused by mold exposure is disputed, as the sensitisation risk is relatively low. Other common causes of occupational asthma are exposure to isocyanates (present in a number of household products such as paint, and construction foam)and baker’s yeast.
The guts of the problem with house dust mites
Many studies are now indicating that the bacteria in your gut may be linked to the development of asthma and allergies, among a host of other diseases. Researchers are taking this a step further and looking at the gut bacteria of House Dust Mites (HDM). Reactivity to bacteria in respiratory and skin allergy is common, but how these patients become sensitised is still unknown. Dzoro et al from the medical university of Vienna, Austria recently published work describing the presence of E.coli and S.aureus bacteria in the gut of dust mites. HDM do not cause sensitisation themselves, but rather their faeces do as they contain several potent sensitizers.
HDM carry bacterial sensitizers which can cause sensitisation to bacterial antigens.
What are the main takeaways from EAACI 2018?
While researchers are making large strides, particularly in identifying the role of gut bacteria and childhood environments, It is still difficult to definitively say why there is an increase in cases of asthma and allergic diseases year on year. Certainly it seems that urbanisation and air pollution play a vital role. We cannot control many of these factors ourselves, however we can control our own indoor environment by removing potential triggers and risks. This is an important part of controlling disease symptoms as part of a multi-faceted therapeutic approach.
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