Genetics of eczema
Press release issued: 26 November 2004
A new study of atopic disease in families has come to the conclusion that fathers' genes play an equal part in the spread of eczema.
Doctors have known for many years that eczema - also known as atopic dermatitis - runs in families. In the past, it was thought that if a baby suffered from eczema, it was more likely to have come from the mother's side.
The latest study overturns that theory - suggesting that fathers' genes are equally responsible.
The results come from information provided by 8,500 families taking part in the Children of the 90s study based at the University of Bristol. The project has already reported a dramatic rise in eczema and asthma over the last 20 years.
Researchers asked parents to report on their history of atopic disease (asthma, hayfever and eczema) and compared it with their children's record of eczema upto the age of 3½.
Among the parents - 47 per cent of mothers and 41 per cent of fathers reported some atopic disease themselves with hayfever the most common.
In families where there was no history of eczema in either parent - 28 per cent of children showed signs of eczema as infants.
Where either the mother or father had eczema - 40 per cent of their children had eczema. If both parents had eczema - it went up to 52 per cent in their children.
The report's author Dr Nellie Wadonda-Kabondo says: "While doctors have tended to group the atopic diseases together - our findings support the idea that there are several different genes involved.
"The child's risk of developing eczema was much higher if parents had a history of eczema, but if parents had hay fever or asthma the risk of the child developing eczema was substantial only if both parents had one or both of these diseases.
"It is important to establish the patterns of how children inherit eczema so that we can search for the genes that cause this disease."
Wadonda-Kabondo N, Sterne J, Golding J, Kennedy CTC. Archer C, Dunnill MG, Association of parental eczema, hayfever and asthma with atopic dermatitis in infancy: birth cohort study. Archives of Disease in Childhood.