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Nature. 1999 Nov 25;402(6760 Suppl):B5-11.

The alliance of genes and environment in asthma and allergy.

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Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, Headington, Oxford, UK.


The diseases of asthma, eczema and hay fever are typified by reactions to common allergens, which are mediated by immunoglobulin E. These allergic diseases are increasing in prevalence, and are now a major source of disability throughout the developed world. They are the result of complex interactions between largely unknown genetic and environmental mechanisms. The identification of the environmental factors offers the real possibility of prevention of disease, and unravelling the genetics of allergic illnesses is likely to change their classification and treatment. Early life seems particularly important, when the initiation of allergic disease may result from genetic and environmental modification of the immune interaction between mother and child.

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