DOCTORS on the Isle of Wight have made a groundbreaking discovery that could revolutionise the treatment of childhood asthma.
Researchers at the world-renowned David Hide Asthma and Allergy Research Centre, at St Mary's Hospital, and Southampton University Hospital have discovered a child's risk of developing an allergic disease is doubled if a parent of the same sex has suffered from it.
The groundbreaking study, led by Prof Hasan Arshad, a consultant in allergy and immunology at Southampton General Hospital and the David Hide Centre, proves diseases, such as asthma and eczema, are gender-related and not simply hereditary.
"We have known for decades allergy runs in the family and many thought maternal effect was greater than paternal effect due to a mother’s closeness to her child. But we have discovered the inheritance is from mother to daughter and father to son," said Professor Arshad.
His team assessed 1,456 Islanders recruited as babies 23 years ago and found the risk of asthma in boys is only increased if their fathers suffer from the condition while, if mothers have asthma, it doubles the risk in their daughters but not sons.
The research, funded by the National Institute of Health in the USA, also showed maternal eczema led to a 50 per cent increased risk of eczema in girls, while paternal eczema did the same for boys.
"With these groundbreaking findings, we should see a change in the way we assess a child's risk of disease," said Prof Arshad.
"This work also opens up novel areas for further research in the genetics of allergy as to why this sex dependent effect occurs and, if we can find the reason, we can try to find a way of preventing sex-specific disease."