Multidisciplinary Approaches to Allergy Prevention
Allergies are a complex medical and societal phenomenon. Its prevention requires well-elaborated actions. The classical avoidance rule is: no allergen, no allergy. However, with the high number of allergenic sources of allergens in the out-door and in-house environment and in foods on the one hand, and the many economic-related changes in life-style and food patterns that can bias the balance of the immune system towards allergic sensitivity in the general population or individuals on the other hand, allergen avoidance is a tough task. In this article, we focus on the development of an allergy prevention knowledge framework, running from fundamental research to societal implementation and education. Such a framework can be helpful to identify known and lacking scientific details. On the basis of this framework, adequate prevention strategies can be developed and implemented. It opens ways for cooperation in multi- and interdisciplinary settings at various societal (national and international) levels. Here, we present several examples of allergies and allergy prevention in different stages of the allergy prevention knowledge framework in which we distinguish five phases: (1) fundamental research; (2) designing research; (3) development of a prevention strategy; (4) implementation of the strategy into society; and (5) dissemination of acquired knowledge. Genetic and genomic approaches, also including the aspects of epigenetics, are generally at the level of fundamental research. The application of traditional medicines in allergy treatment and prevention has been implemented in Asian societies, and in many cases the scientific evidence (necessary for implementation in western societies) is beginning to accumulate. Regarding food allergies, labeling of allergens can result in the so-called “may contain” labeling that sometimes is an advantage regarding food safety, but mostly is a disadvantage to the individual allergic consumer as it may reduce the choice in food products unnecessarily. The gluten case, related to celiac disease (gluten intolerance) will be further elaborated on with the “oats issue”. Regarding environmentally caused allergies, we focus on hay fever caused by pollen grains and on the development of “pollen calendars”. The examples will be evaluated against the allergy prevention knowledge framework. In all, each allergen and each allergenic source requires its own prevention strategy.
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