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Weekly Eczema News Report 12/27/2022: Atopic Dermatitis Risk Factors, Eczema's relationship to Cataract Surgery, High Covid Booster Antibodies

We’ve got good news and bad news this week. Atopic dermatitis sufferers get some sobering suggestions about mortality rates and cataract surgery, while two genes unique to the human genome were discovered. Microbiologists made some surprising discoveries about how mothers affect their babies’ microbiome in the perinatal period, and a common food additive was found to adversely affect the gut microbiome in another study. To top it all off, we get encouraging news about Covid 19 boosters and immunity. Let’s dig in!


Atopic Dermatitis Risk Factors

 

Atopic dermatitis is a tough disorder to manage, and it comes with risk factors for several other disorders. According to a recent report in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, it might also come with an increased risk of death. Researchers found that eczema patients have an all-around higher mortality rate than the rest of the population; they also have a much higher mortality rate from gastrointestinal diseases, infection, and cancer. 


While the study is limited by its size and lack of ethnic/socioeconomic diversity, its authors say that other studies have made similar findings. They suggest that “immunosuppressant and barrier disruption could contribute to microbial susceptibility and bacterial colonization inducing penetration of pathogens and systemic infection.”

Korean researchers brought other (but less dire) bad news to eczema patients.  Along with atopic rhinitis and asthma diagnoses, atopic dermatitis is one of several allergic disorders that seem to be risk factors for cataract surgery according to a report from a recent study. This risk factor is higher in men, and it increases with age; study authors suggest that atopic dermatitis patients receive regular screening for cataracts.

 

Human Gene Differentiation


In less solemn news, the human genome got props this week via research published in Cell Reports. It’s a well-known fact that humans share nearly 99% of our DNA with chimpanzees. We can now claim two completely unique genes that do not exist in our primate cousins’ genome–in fact, those genes cannot be found in any animal other than humans. Researchers are not yet certain what role these genes play, if any, in our physiology. 


Non-human genetics discoveries were also published. The transmission of microbiota from mother to child immediately before, during, and after birth has been of interest to scientists for over a decade. This week, the journal Cell published findings by researchers who found that mothers affect their infants’ microbiome even without transmitting particular species of microbiota–instead, maternal gut microbes “shared” genes with infant gut microbes in the perinatal period (a time beginning immediately before birth and ending a few weeks after). 


They also found that infants who are breastfed have a distinct microbiome from formula-fed infants. The development of a newborn’s microbiome has implications for cognitive and immune system development. 

 

More News On The Microbiome

 

Speaking of microbiomes, researchers at Canada’s McMaster University report that exposure to Allura Red, a common food dye and thickening agent, deleteriously affects gut microbiota and is associated with the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in animal studies. Allura Red is also known as FD&C 40; it is often added to foods marketed to children to make them more visually appealing. The study authors say that the findings warrant a closer look at Allura Red on “experimental, epidemiological, and clinical levels.”

 

We round out the news on a positive note. Researchers with the University of Virginia School of Medicine compared the levels of Covid 19 antibodies in people who received booster shots against those who did not get the boosters. They expected to find higher antibody counts in people who’d received boosters.  While that did not turn out to be the case, they did discover that boosters led to longer lives for Covid 19 antibodies. Antibody levels taper off after exposure to illness or vaccines; longer-lasting antibodies might therefore lead to a more sustained immunity against Covid 19.

This week definitely came down the chimney with a mixed bag! While all news might not have been pleasant, it does all represent a leap forward in our knowledge on eczema, human genetics, and immunology. And that is good news! Happy Holidays!