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21/5/2019  
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HEALTH
Understanding of emerging allergy trends

Allergies can be tackled through collaborative research and education

Allergic diseases and asthma pose an important and increasing problem for Europe.

The EU-funded Global Allergy and Asthma European Network (GA2LEN), launched in 2004, has become a leading force in the battle against allergic diseases. The network is still expanding, with over 60 centres in more than 20 European countries.
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Allergic diseases and asthma pose an important and increasing problem for Europe. European research groups already make a major contribution to studies of the causes and management of these conditions. Initiatives from the European Commission have led to increasing collaboration within Europe, but there is still a lack of permanent structures and there are relatively poor links between disciplines. Asthma, a common inflammation of the airways that can be triggered by allergens, kills someone in Europe every hour, says the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Allergy sufferers also experience major inconveniences in their daily lives. For example, children often have to miss school or stop doing sport, and breathing and skin problems can dent confidence.

The problem is not going away. According to the European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients´ Associations, asthma alone accounts for an estimated nine billion work days lost in the EU annually. GA2LEN researchers estimate that allergies cost the EU economy some EUR 100 billion a year.

The GA2LEN Network seeks to help by integrating European research activities and encouraging better cooperation among those working in the field. The researchers also compiled a European database of comparable studies - known as cohorts. In the future, this should help scientists conduct more reliable analyses of the genetic and environmental factors that cause allergies.

The project has also established a network of ´allergy schools´, in collaboration with the European Academy of Allergology and Clinical Immunology (EAACI). These schools, which take place in winter and summer, aim to stimulate social contacts between young people interested in allergy and clinical immunology.

The network aims to raise the profile of allergies at the European policy level, pushing the issue to the top of the agenda. While progress has been made, further collaborative research is necessary to fully understand the problem.

Furthermore, GA2LEN is strongly supporting initiatives for a better understanding of emerging allergy trends throughout Europe - currently not even pollen counts are being analysed for all regions.

The GA2LEN project, which was coordinated by the University of Ghent, Belgium, was completed in January 2010. The EU provided EUR 14 million in funding.

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