Around two million people in Austria suffer from an allergy. 400,000 of them are allergic to birch pollen and have associated food allergies, particularly to apples, peaches, hazelnuts, carrots and celery. According to experts, around 80,000 people are thought to have a primary food allergy in childhood. Cross-reactions such as house dust mites-shrimps or ragweed-melons increase the total number of Austrians with food allergies to around 600,000. As yet there are still no approved immunotherapy treatments for food allergies and so the best approach is still to avoid the allergen responsible. This was the message from the MedUni Vienna allergy experts, speaking on the occasion of the EAACI European Allergy Congress, which starts this Saturday in Vienna.
"Personalized diagnosis for each patient using single molecule analysis is particularly helpful, as it enables us to draw up a diet plan and prevent unexpected outbreaks," explains Karin Hoffmann-Sommergruber from the Institute for Pathophysiology and Allergy Research at MedUni Vienna, who is leading the organizing committee for the congress, together with Barbara Bohle (Head of the Institute for Pathophysiology and Allergy Research) and Zsolt Szépfalusi (University Department of Paediatrics).
Does sugar boost allergens?
The management of such patients, especially those with severe, life-threatening, anaphylactic conditions, is also a central theme at the EAACI Congress. Moreover, the extent to which sugar and lipid structures in food interact with allergens, thereby boosting their effect, is being investigated in allergology in general - and at MedUni Vienna. The aim is to develop immunotherapies that can also be used in future for people with food allergies.
Europe spends 100 billion euros per annum on the treatment of allergies
The commonest allergies are still inhalation allergies, whereby allergens are breathed in with the air and allergens include plant pollens, moulds, house-dust mites and animal hairs. Around one million Austrians are allergic to pollen, one in every three to grass pollen.
According to the European Centre for Allergy Research Foundation (ECARF), 30% of the population are affected by some form of allergy - and the trend is rising. ECARF reckons that allergic asthma, food allergies, allergies to drugs and insect allergies cost the European healthcare system 100 billion euros every year.
Source: Medical University of Vienna