A new test can help predict the condition

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Eczema is a chronic skin condition that can affect people of all ages. Brandon Bell/Getty Images
  • Eczema is a chronic condition that affects the skin and can cause unpleasant symptoms.
  • Predicting the development of eczema could be useful for prevention and planning effective treatment.
  • Study results shared at the 31st Congress of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (EADV) have revealed that a non-invasive skin immune biomarker test could help doctors predict the likelihood of babies developing eczema .

Eczema is a chronic skin condition that often causes dry, itchy skin. It is prevalent in children and adults.

Experts are still researching the best way to predict the development of eczema to aid in prevention and treatment.

The results of a new study shared at the 31st Congress of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (EADV) have unveiled a non-invasive test that could help predict the development of eczema in babies.

Eczema can affect people of all ages.

Genetics and factors in a person’s environment can increase the risk of developing eczema. However, it is still unclear what exactly causes eczema.

There are different types of eczema, but one of the most common types is atopic dermatitis.

Dr. Alpana Mohta, a board-certified dermatologist and medical advisor for BetterGoods.org who was not involved in the study, told Medical News Today:

“In pediatric cases, the most common form of eczema is AD [atopic dermatitis]. According to the National Eczema Association, approximately 9.6 million children under the age of 18 in the United States suffer from atopic dermatitis (AD), with one-third suffering from moderate to severe conditions. Since 1997, the prevalence of AD in children has increased dramatically, from 8% to 15% [and] 80% of people with AD develop the disease before the age of six.

Eczema often involves dry, itchy skin with rashes on areas of the body like the face and hands.

Treatment focuses on reducing symptoms and preventing further flare-ups.

A complication of eczema is skin infections. Mohta noted a few treatment options available:

Taking steps to prevent itchy skin in the first place is the key step in managing it. This can be accomplished by following a good hydration regimen and taking prescription antihistamine medications as directed. Other measures include avoiding triggers, using low pH skin cleansers, applying a cold compress, having your baby wear natural, breathable and soft fabrics that are hypoallergenic, using wrap therapy moist and a caramide-based cream or lotion.

Early identification and diagnosis can contribute to effective treatment. Some experts have focused their research efforts on ways to predict the development of eczema.

The results of the study, shared at the EADV congress in September, involved 450 children. This number included 300 full-term newborns and 150 premature newborns.

According to the results, the researchers followed the participants until they were 2 years old.

The researchers used strips of duct tape to take skin samples to test for skin biomarkers. In full-term infants, they took skin samples from the cheek and the back of the hand in the first days of life and again at 2 months. In premature infants, they took the samples between the shoulder blades during the first month of life and also from the cheek at 2 months.

The researchers reported that the specific immune biomarker, thymus and chemokine regulated by activation (TARC), was a key predictor of atopic dermatitis. If the level of this biomarker was high, babies were more likely to develop atopic dermatitis.

At the two-month marker, elevated levels of TARC were associated with the onset of atopic dermatitis before 24 months, particularly in term participants. For premature babies, elevated levels of TARC had a borderline significant association with atopic dermatitis. In term infants, elevated levels of the biomarker interleukin have been associated with the development of moderate to severe atopic dermatitis.

This identification method could be useful in the diagnosis and prevention of eczema, in particular because it is a simple and non-invasive test method.

Dr Anne-Sofie Halling, author of the study at the Department of Dermatology and Venereology at Bispebjerg Hospital in Denmark, explained the significance of the study for NTM:

“Our findings of predictive immune biomarkers collected at 2 months of age will help identify children most at risk for atopic eczema using a non-invasive and painless method, so that future preventive strategies can target only these children and preventing cases of this common disease that so many children suffer from.

Due to the sample size and methods, experts say more research is needed to confirm the study results and the effectiveness of this diagnostic method.

The results of this particular study have yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The researchers would like to point out that the lead author of the research is Professor Jacob P. Thyssen of Bispebjerg Hospital and that the study received funding from the Lundbeck Foundation.

The researchers carried out their non-invasive test method in close collaboration with Sanja Kezic of the Coronel Institute of Occupational Health in Amsterdam, an expert in the analysis of duct tape strips.

Halling was excited about the opportunities this testing method could provide in the future:

“Identifying these biomarkers is crucial to preventing atopic eczema in the future; there are currently several clinical trials on prevention strategies for atopic eczema. A recent Irish clinical trial (STOP AD trial) found that daily application of stool softeners during the first 8 weeks of life in children with a family history of eczema, asthma or rhinitis significantly reduced the incidence atopic eczema. These results confirm that there is an open window of opportunity during the first few months where a successful intervention can reduce the risk of atopic eczema, and it is also at this age that we were able to identify the immune biomarkers that predicted the development of atopic eczema.