Protein-X marks the spot for allergy prediction in infants

Atopy, or a predisposition to certain allergies, can be predicted in babies as young as a month old--long before symptoms appear--according to Danish researchers. A study appearing in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found that if newborn babies had higher levels of urinary eosinophil protein-X (u-EPX), they had a higher risk of allergic sensitization, nasal eosinophilia and eczema by the time they were 6 years old.

"We asked whether the allergic disease process may be active prior to the development of symptoms, and if so, whether there are biomarkers that could be clinically useful in predicting the development of disease," principle investigator Hans Bisgaard, of the University of Copenhagen, said in a statement. "We found that in babies born to asthmatic mothers, urine levels of eosinophil protein-X may predict the development of allergic symptoms."

The researchers measured the levels of this biomarker, along with other markers for inflammation, in 369 healthy month-old infants born to asthmatic mothers. In the first year of life, 4% of the children developed asthma-like symptoms and more than one-quarter were diagnosed with eczema. Another 17% went on to develop asthma-like symptoms and 15% developed eczema by age 6, the release said.

"This knowledge may help us identify the highest risk groups of children from a very early age for targeted prevention as well as individualized intervention and treatment," Bisgaard said in the release. "This has redirected our research into what causes asthma, eczema and allergy, and we are now focusing on events in the first months of life or before birth."

- read the release
- and the abstract