Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium that can be found in the skin and nose of children of pediatric age, and it can aggravate the state of eczema. This is what has long been known to researchers and Doctors.
More recently, a study conducted by a group of researchers at King’s College London showed that this bacterium inhibits oral tolerance to peanuts.
This research sheds new light on the role played by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus, since until now it had always been associated with pathological conditions such as asthma, rhinitis, and eczema.
How did these researchers come up with the idea of studying the presence of the bacterium in children and analyzing its correlation with food allergies?
Usually, these correlations can be of two types: random (i.e. researchers study something and then realize in an unintended way that there are unintended relationships), or they begin with an hypothesis (as happened in the case of the London researchers). You may think the latter is the most common way, but I assure you that many discoveries have been made in a random way, and the English term to note here is “serendipity”.
But back to the discovery of the English researchers. As I’ve said, they started from the fact that since Staphylococcus aureus causes eczema, and the latter is considered a risk factor for food problems such as peanut allergy, they looked in a statistically-significant sample of children (between the ages of 4 and 11 months) for a possible correlation between the presence of the bacterium and the allergy.
In addition, other studies had previously demonstrated the correlation between microbiota and allergies, as I wrote in another article, back in June.
How did they study this correlation?
Essentially, by analyzing the presence of Staphylococcus aureus on the skin and nose of children, and then checking the extent of eczema, and finally, by examining the immune response of the children (i.e. whether or not they were allergic to peanuts).
But why peanuts?
The most common allergies in children are to milk, egg whites, and peanuts. It’s estimated that about 2% of children in developed countries are allergic to peanuts, and in 1% of cases, this allergic form leads to anaphylaxis. Therefore, it’s an important allergy, both in its spread, and as a consequence, as traces of peanuts or nuts are found in many foods of industrial origin.
In conclusion, the study by British researchers has demonstrated that:
The immune response, measured by the value of IgE (a type of antibody produced by our body and is responsible for allergic responses), to the ingestion of peanuts is related significantly to the presence of Staphylococcus aureus. This means that if the child has the bacterium, he or she also has a nearly three-times higher probability of developing the allergy than a child who hasn’t been colonized by Staphylococcus aureus.
Identifying the correlation between the bacterium and peanut allergy lays the foundation for preventing this allergy, by modulating the presence of Staphylococcus aureus. Further investigation will be made, in an effort to see how much the elimination of the bacterium can positively influence the regression of the allergy.
This post is also available in: Italiano