People with food allergies seem to be less likely to contract SARS

People with food allergies seem to be less likely to contract SARS

Since the start of the global pandemic, researchers have been racing to find out who is most at risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2, and why.

Now, a new population study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has found evidence of a peculiar advantage of the coronavirus for allergy sufferers.

In an analysis of more than 4,000 people who all lived in households with minors, researchers noted several intriguing trends regarding SARS-CoV-2 infection, including that individuals with food allergies were half as likely to become infected.

The findings match other recent research, which has found that allergic conditions, such as asthma, may offer some protection against severe cases of COVID-19.

Somewhat similarly, the new NIH study found that asthma was not associated with an increased risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection, even though asthma is a condition that affects the respiratory system.

On the other hand, obesity and high BMI were factors that increased the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection, as was the age of children and adolescents sharing a living space.

But the discovery regarding food allergies may be the most remarkable one.

“[T]said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Researchers aren’t sure why food allergies make people less likely to get SARS-CoV-2, but there are some possible explanations.

Half of all study participants claimed they had been diagnosed with a food allergy, asthma, eczema or allergic rhinitis. These self-reports were then supported by a subset of blood tests, which revealed the presence of antibodies associated with allergic disease.

The researchers then tracked the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in the participating families from May 2020 to February 2021.

People with eczema and asthma did not show additional vulnerability to the virus, but they also did not appear to be protected.

Meanwhile, those with food allergies were 50% less likely to contract SARS-CoV-2.

Not all forms of asthma are atopic (also known as hypersensitive), and previous studies have shown that only people with atopic asthma express low airway levels of the ACE-2 receptor, which SARS-CoV-2 is associated with.

This indicates that the virus does not have many ways to invade the cells in the lungs of people with respiratory allergies.

Something similar can happen among people with food allergies, although the authors only looked at SARS-CoV-2 infection, not the severity of the infection.

It is not known whether this is also the case in people with food allergies, but it is tempting to speculate that type 2 inflammation, a feature of food allergy, may reduce ACE2 levels in the airway and thus risk of injury.”

“Supporting this possibility, we found significantly higher levels of generalized atopy among those with self-reported food allergies, compared to both those without a food allergy, and even those with asthma.”

Interestingly, while some studies suggest that allergic asthma protects against severe cases of COVID-19, the current study found that the condition does not protect against initial contraction of the virus.

Furthermore, when a participant with asthma or a food allergy contracted the new coronavirus, they were not likely to be asymptomatic.

More research is needed to disentangle the mechanisms behind the new findings, but the authors hope their research will offer new ways to prevent COVID-19.

The study was published in Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

2022-06-02 06:56:40

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