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Queensland researchers contribute to largest genetic eczema study

Researchers at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Brisbane Australia, contributed to the world’s largest genetic study of eczema, an itchy dry-skin condition that can affect people of all ages. More than 377 000 participants were involved in 40 research studies worldwide and collated by the University of Bristol (UK).

Eczema usually appears in early childhood (in babies between two-to-six months of age) and disappears around six years of age. More than half of all eczema sufferers show signs within their first 12 months of life and 20 per cent of people develop eczema before the age of five.

Most children grow out of the condition, however about one in 10 adults suffer eczema in adulthood. The condition can not only affect the individual sufferer, but also their family and friends.

Speaking of the study, Dr Manuel Ferreira, head of the Asthma Genetics team at QIMR Berghofer, said “Genes play an important role in determining how likely we are to develop eczema but the majority of the genes that cause the condition have yet to be identified.

“Through our Australian Consortium, we contributed data from thousands of people across Australia to the study of eczema risk genes.

“We found ten new genes that increase the risk of developing eczema. These genes not only tell us a bit more about what triggers eczema – disruption of skin integrity and immune function – but some are also good targets for new treatments.

“Many people who suffer from eczema struggle with treating the disease and so there is a need for new treatment options.”

Dr Ferreira said, “Although our results do not bring immediate benefits to patients, we hope the genes we identified will provide the foundation for the development of new, more efficient drugs in the long run.”

The study was published this month in the prestigious Nature Genetics journal.