A common type of skin bacteria may put young children with severe eczema at increased risk for food allergies, British researchers report.
This type of bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus, is found in the nose and skin of healthy people, but it’s more common in people with the skin condition eczema, especially those with severe cases.
This study found that young children with severe eczema who are infected with staph make more of an antibody called IgE against peanut, egg and milk. That indicates they are allergic to each of those foods.
These children were also more likely to have an egg allergy at 5 or 6 years of age than children without staph, according to the team from King’s College London.
The finding is “significant as most children with egg allergy usually outgrow this at an earlier age,” said lead author Dr. Olympia Tsilochristou, a clinical research fellow and allergy specialist.
“We do not know yet the exact mechanisms that lead from eczema to food allergy; however, our results suggest that the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus could be an important factor contributing to this outcome,” Tsilochristou added in a college news release. The study did not prove cause and effect and only found an association.
The findings add to those from a previous study, of infants at high risk for peanut allergy. In that study, children fed peanut-containing snacks did not later develop peanut allergy.
Despite being fed peanut from early ages, the current study found that children with staph on their skin and/or in their nose were more likely to develop peanut allergy.
“These findings indicate that [staph] may have reduced the chance of young infants gaining tolerance to peanut, even if peanut was eaten in early childhood,” said study co-author Dr. George du Toit, a professor of pediatric allergy.
The study was published May 31 in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
The American Academy of Dermatology has more on the difference between eczema and infection in children.