A child's chances of developing allergies or wheezing is related to how he or she grew at vital stages in the womb, according to scientists from the University of Southampton.
The new research, funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the British Lung Foundation, and undertaken at Southampton General Hospital, reveals that fetuses which develop quickly in early pregnancy but falter later in pregnancy are likely to go on to develop allergies and asthma as children. Scientists believe this is due to changes in the development of their immune system and lungs.
A fetus that grows too slowly in the womb is also more likely to become an infant who wheezes with common colds, possibly as a result of narrower airways in its lungs.
"Childhood allergies and asthma have become an epidemic in developed countries over the last 50 years. This research shows that in order to combat this, we need to understand more about how babies develop in the womb," comments Keith Godfrey, Professor of Epidemiology and Human Development at the University of Southampton and Deputy Director of the NIHR Nutrition Biomedical Research Unit at Southampton General Hospital.
"We already know that a baby's growth in the womb has an important influence on susceptibility to obesity and heart disease in later life, but this research provides some of the most direct evidence yet that changes in how the baby's immune system and lungs develops before birth can predispose them to some of the commonest childhood illnesses."
For the research, published in the Journal Thorax, University of Southampton scientists at the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit based at Southampton General Hospital studied more than 1,500 three year-old children who were taking part in the Southampton Women's Survey, the UK's largest study of women and their offspring. The Survey has studied how a woman's diet and lifestyle before and during pregnancy affects their baby's
|Contact: Sophie Docker|
University of Southampton