The hapten hypothesis of atopic disease

An extract from a longer article in Skin and Allergy News

While the hygiene hypothesis is the most popular explanation offered for the increase in atopic disease in developed countries, it's not the only plausible explanation, according to Dr. John P. McFadden.

The hapten hypothesis holds that the 400% rise in atopic dermatitis, asthma, and hay fever during the past 50 years is caused at least in part by the revolutionary increase in exposure to chemical haptens in the personal environment during the same time frame, Dr. McFadden said at the annual congress of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology.

Haptens are low-molecular-weight organic chemicals that aren't allergenic on their own but can bind to a peptide or protein, thereby altering its configuration and rendering it foreign and allergenic. Examples of haptens include antibiotics and some other drugs, as well as chemicals present in toiletries, processed foods, powdered milk, preservatives used in vaccines, and metal jewelry, explained Dr. McFadden of St. John's Institute of Dermatology, St. Thomas' Hospital, London.


First published in October 2010

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