Researchers at the University of Southampton have linked growth in utero to allergies and wheezing later in life. The study reports fetuses that start off growing fast and then lag later in gestation may be more likely to suffer from allergies and wheezing as children. The immune system and lungs are developed later in pregnancy and this could be the direct reason why slowed growth results in breathing problems and / or disorders.
Doctors noted that clinical research has already linked obesity and heart disease to growth rate and development in the womb, so this connection would not be a huge surprise. It is still a major discovery, however, because it deals with the development of the immune system. If doctors can pinpoint how certain changes in gestation affect immunity, that knowledge could hold the answer to immune based disease.
Researchers chose more than 1,500 three year old children that were already part of the Southampton Women’s Survey. The study had collected information on the mother’s before birth and during gestation. Medical records for the women were also collected, including fetal reports.
When interviewed for this study, researchers compared the information on file with the information collected from the three year old pool of participants. About 27% of the children who developed fast at first and lagged later had sensitivity to more common allergens. Ian Jarrold from the British Lung Foundation offers, “The most commonly reported long-term illnesses in children and babies are conditions of the respiratory system. Increasing our understanding of childhood lung conditions is vital for developing new ways of diagnosing and treating lung diseases earlier in life."
Source: University of Southampton. AlphaGalileo Foundation. 25 October, 2010.