What if we could treat and prevent childhood disease

Allergy, Genes and Environment Network – AllerGen (NCE)


The challenge: Parents are often advised to limit their child’s exposure to things that can cause harm. Yet they are also warned against over-sanitizing their child’s environment because exposure to dirt and germs can help a child's immune system. What do scientists know about the developing immune system and the causes of allergies, asthma and chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases?

The response: The Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Study, a birth cohort study of 3,500 Canadian children and their families, funded by AllerGen and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, is identifying the early life exposures that affect a baby’s health and well-being down the road: breathing in traffic fumes during infancy can increase the risk of allergies; early introduction of potentially allergenic foods (eggs, peanut, milk) reduces the risk of developing allergies to these foods; consuming diet drinks in pregnancy may increase a baby’s risk of obesity; and consuming fruit while pregnant boosts a baby’s cognitive development.

By using the CHILD Study’s biological samples and data, we were able to demonstrate that four types of gut bacteria, acquired early in life, are important in determining later asthma risk. Dr. Brett Finlay, AllerGen NCE investigator, University of British Columbia