Allergic runny nose: Reason discovered for many rhinitis diseases

Rhinitis diseases: World's largest genetic study on allergic rhinitis

In a new study on allergic rhinitis, researchers identified 20 previously unknown risk genes. According to the experts, this can explain about eight percent of allergic rhinitis diseases.

The most common form of allergy

Almost a third of German adults and around one in four children suffer from an allergy. Allergic rhinitis (in technical jargon called allergic rhinitis) is the most common form of allergy. An international scientific team led by the Helmholtz Zentrum München and the University of Copenhagen has now presented the largest study on allergic rhinitis to date. The data from almost 900,000 participants uncovered places in the human genome, the changes of which significantly increase the risk of illness.

Around 400 million people affected worldwide

Allergic rhinitis includes several clinical pictures that are typically triggered by allergens from the air.

These include hay fever but also house dust mite and animal hair allergies.

As the Helmholtz Center Munich writes in a statement, around 400 million people worldwide are affected by the disease, and the trend is increasing, especially in western countries.

"To improve the prevention and therapy of this clinical picture, we must first understand why the body defends itself against certain, actually harmless substances," explains Dr. Marie Standl, group leader at the Institute for Epidemiology at the Helmholtz Zentrum München.

The first author of the current work, which was published in the specialist journal "Nature Genetics", was significantly involved in the complex statistical analysis of the data from almost 900,000 test subjects.

Genetic differences between people with and without allergic rhinitis

The aim of the investigation within the framework of the EAGLE (Early Genetics and Lifecourse Epidemiology) research network was to work out the genetic differences between people with and without allergic rhinitis.

In a first step, the researchers compared the genetic makeup of around 60,000 allergic rhinitis patients with that of over 150,000 healthy control persons and identified a group of 42 significant risk genes, some of which were already described in the literature.

In a second step, they were able to confirm a total of 20 previously unknown risk genes based on the data from another 60,000 people affected and 620,000 healthy controls.

"The higher the number of study participants, the more certain the statement we can make," said Standl. "The known risk genes explain about eight percent of allergic rhinitis diseases."

It is not clear why so many people develop allergic rhinitis

The researchers then used databases to determine which functions could be assigned to the said genes.

According to the experts, a connection with the immune system was already known for most of them, including the binding of antigens.

A strong overlap of risk genes for allergic rhinitis and autoimmune diseases was also observed.

"The places in the genome that we have identified promote understanding of the mechanisms of allergic rhinitis and hopefully open up new target structures for its treatment and prevention," explains Dr. Klaus Bønnelykke.

He led the study together with his colleagues Johannes Waage and Hans Bisgaard from the Copenhagen Prospective Studies on Asthma in Childhood, COPSAC for short, at the University of Copenhagen.

“However, the genes found only partially explain why so many people develop allergic rhinitis. An important next step will be to research the interplay between risk genes and the environment, ”says the expert. (ad)

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