Does being allergy-prone have a genetic factor?

22 May 2011


A child with a runny nose and sneezing into a handkerchief



Does being prone to allergies have a genetic factor, and if yes, how come genes responsible for those traits survived?


Pamela Ewan, from Addenbrooke's Hospital Cambridge, and Rick Maizels from the University of Glasgow, answered this question...

Rick - Some of those genes were probably preserved in the human population because they protected people from infections such as these helminth parasites. So the other side of the coin is that the same reactions that now give us allergies are protective against some parasites.

Chris - Pam, anything to add to that?

Pam - That's a good answer. There does seem to be some genetic basis, but it's quite loose. We know if one parent has allergy, the child is more likely to, and if both parents have allergy, the child is even more likely to. But it's quite hard to pin it down to a specific gene. There are certain genetic associations, but it's quite loose.


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