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Study seeks to identify prenatal allergy risk markers

Mar. 16, 2023, 8:37 AM


by Jessica Pasley

With so much uncertainty surrounding the reasons why children develop allergic disease, researchers at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt want to start at the very beginning — studying subjects prior to birth.

The hospital recently began recruiting for a birth cohort study called Systems Biology of Early Atopy, or SUNBEAM. The national, multicenter, observational study requires the enrollment of pregnant women.

Funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, the study’s goal is to identify prenatal and early childhood markers of high risk for food allergy and atopic dermatitis, or eczema, as well as biological pathways that lead to these conditions.

“This is the first study of its kind,” said Leonard Bacharier, MD, professor of Pediatrics at Monroe Carell. “It is a broad, multifaceted approach that will allow us to capture any specific exposures and to understand what is happening before the child is born.

“If we can predict which infants will go on to develop disease, we can potentially target prevention efforts for these children.”

Monroe Carell hopes to recruit 200 pregnant women/babies as part of the overall enrollment goal of 2,500 across the 10 study sites throughout the United States.

The study is looking for women around the 30-week gestational period to allow the teams to follow the women from the period of consent to delivery as well as closely follow children for the first three years of life. Women will be enrolled regardless of whether they have known risk factors for allergic disease.

The only caveat: participants must be followed by the OB/GYN practices at Vanderbilt University Medical Center as well as plan to deliver at the hospital due to the need to collect samples around delivery of the baby.

“We are seeing more food allergy and eczema than we have ever seen,” said Bacharier. “There is a huge environmental impact — there are exposures that occur to pregnant women that impact the immune development of the baby which may alter the baby’s risk of later development of allergic conditions.”

For information about participating, go here.

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