Speculation as to why the Frequency of Eosinophilic Esophagitis Is Increasing
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Purpose of review
The frequency of eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), an immune/antigen-mediated disorder first described in 1993, has been increasing rapidly. The purpose of this review is to consider hypotheses proposed to explain this increase and to speculate on their validity.
The hygiene hypothesis attributes the rise of EoE to modern hygienic conditions resulting in fewer childhood infections with microbes that might have protected against allergy development. Microbial dysbiosis, a change in the microbiome’s composition and diversity caused by a modern affluent lifestyle, also might contribute to allergic conditions. Environmental factors including modern chemicals contaminating crops, livestock treated with hormones and antibiotics, food additives and processing changes, and pollutants in the air and water conceivably might predispose to EoE. One intriguing hypothesis attributes increasing EoE to increasing use of acid-suppressive medications like proton pump inhibitors, which might prevent peptic digestion of food allergens, increase gastric permeability, and alter the microbiome to favor food allergy development. In a recent pediatric case-control study, use of acid suppressants in infancy was by far the single strongest risk factor identified for later development of EoE.
It remains unclear which, if any, of the above factors underlies the rising frequency of EoE. These factors need not be mutually exclusive, and the cause of EoE may well be multifactorial.
KeywordsEosinophilic esophagitis Risk factors Hygiene hypothesis Microbial dysbiosis Proton pump inhibitors
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
Stuart Spechler reports receiving consultant fees from Ironwood Pharmaceuticals and Takeda Pharmaceuticals, outside the submitted work.
Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent
This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.
Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance ••Of major importance
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