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Signs of food allergies may be present at birth

Babies born with overactive immune cells more likely to develop life-threatening reactions

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2:00pm, January 13, 2016
child eating yogurt

OVERREACTION  Allergies to dairy, eggs, nuts and other foods are on the rise, but the increase hasn’t been explained. New research suggests babies’ immune systems may be nudged toward developing allergies even before birth.

Some babies are born with immune cells primed to cause food allergies, a new study suggests.

Umbilical cord blood of Australian infants who developed food allergies was loaded with overactive versions of immune cells called monocytes, researchers report in the Jan. 13 Science Translational Medicine. Those overexcited cells may push other immune cells to become allergy-causing cells, immunology researcher Yuxia Zhang of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Parkville, Australia, and colleagues discovered. The findings may help researchers better understand how food allergies develop and to devise strategies to prevent these potentially life-threatening immune reactions.

As many as 15 million people in the United States — including an estimated 4 to 6 percent of children — have allergies to such foods as milk, eggs, peanuts and shellfish. In

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