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aerobiology&airpolutionAllergy is an environmental disease by definition and pollen, spores and air pollutants are playing a key role in the development and clinical aspects of allergic diseases. Environmental studies had a tremendous development in the last decade for several reasons. First of all studies on climate change raised the issue of the relationship between the environment and human health; for example, there is a link between the effects of climate change on plants and possible consequences on allergic diseases. New technologies allow a new approach in aerobiology, making now possible the measurement of the allergenic load i.e. the allergen content of pollen. Then the molecular era of aerobiology has begun. New models taking into account the dispersion of the pollutants are also more and more used in order to allow to better estimate individual exposure to air pollution. In this context, the interest for taking susceptible and vulnerability individuals into account has increased.
Multidisciplinarity is the main feature of research groups in the field of environmental allergology and many teams have been created in the last years to address the multifaceted issue of the interaction between the environment and allergic diseases. Nowadays allergists are used to work together with aerobiologists, biologists, botanists, meteorologists and climatologists, chemistries and ongoing projects show this trend very well (see below). To this regard, the increasing number of EU calls for projects in this research area has boosted the creation of multidisciplinary teams. The IG Aerobiology and Air Pollution has grown in the last years thank to the participation of researchers from different fields, creating a platform for new research projects and new initiatives.   For these reasons we invite all members to join the IG activities to grasp the research and educational opportunities.
New IG board, Lorenzo Cecchi (Chairperson) and Mario Morais Almeida (Secretary), elected in Warsaw in 2009, has been changed in last weeks. The secretary stepped down and he has been replaced by Isabella Annesi-Maesano (France).


Projects

- The project HIALINE (Health Impacts of airborne ALergen Information Network) is funded by the Executive Agency for Health and Consumers of the European Union and coordinated by Jeroen Buters (Germany). The major allergens from the top 3 airborne allergens in Europe (Phl p 5, Bet v 1 and Ole e 1) are sampled with a cascade impactor and data compared to pollen counts. Expected outcomes are the implementation of a network of European outdoor allergen measurements to better predict allergic symptoms. Also the climatic factors that govern allergen exposure in outdoor air will be established. These can be used to calculate the effect of climate change on the health effects of airborne allergens. The project will end in 2012.

- The EU COST Action ES0603 (EUPOL), launched in the autumn of 2007, addresses the assessment of production, release, distribution and health impact of allergenic pollen in Europe. It is chaired by Mikhail Sofiev (Finland) and organized in three working groups: Pollen production and release; pollen distribution in the atmosphere; impact assessment, user links and applications. The project will end in 2011.

- The project MeDALL (FP7, in negotiation) combines the strengths of previous and ongoing EU projects (CHICOS, ENRIECO, ESCAPE, GA2LEN, HiTEA and U-BIOPRED) to develop a novel integrative research approach for the investigation of the initiation of allergy and to reduce the fragmentation of science in this field in Europe.  Among others, the project MeDALL using birth cohort data will allow investigating the interaction between air pollution and pollens in the inception of allergy.


Task forces

- “Effects of Climate change on respiratory allergic diseases and on asthma prevalence” (2008-2009). 10 experts from the EAACI and European Respiratory Society (ERS) have produced a document about the contribution of aerobiology to the effects of climate change on asthma which is in press in Allergy. The document has been endorsed by both societies and an interview to some of the authors have been published as press release in the EAACI website

- “Monitoring allergens in Europe” (2010-). It has been approved two months ago and includes experts from EAACI and from the EU funded COST Action “Assessment of production, release, distribution and health impact of allergenic pollen in Europe” (EUPOL). The aims of the task force are: To prepare a document for policy makers supporting the inclusion of pollen/allergen count among the pollutants in the air quality monitoring; To homogenize the pollen information in Europe according to the patients and allergologists needs; to implement the EAACI website with pollen information and forecasts; to identify research needs and future strategies.


Recent papers

1.    Projections of the effects of climate change on allergic asthma: the contribution of aerobiology. Cecchi L, D’Amato G, Ayres JG, Galan C, Forastiere F, Forsberg B, Gerritsen J, Nunes C, Behrendt H, Akdis K, Dahl R, Annesi-Maesano I. Allergy 2010, in press.
The paper is in press in Allergy as report of the Task force “Effects of Climate change on respiratory allergic diseases and on asthma prevalence” (see section Task Forces) and it represents an official position of both EAACI and ERS. It includes: a state of the art about the effects of changes in climate in the last decades on plants producing allergenic pollen and on pollen allergenicity; a projection on the future taking into account the climate change scenarios; recommendations for policy makers and future directions and needs for research.

2.    The allergen Bet v 1 in fractions of ambient air deviates from birch pollen counts. Buters JT, Weichenmeier I, Ochs S, Pusch G, Kreyling W, Boere AJ, Schober W, Behrendt H. Allergy. 2010 Feb 4. [Epub ahead of print]
The paper of Buters et al. from the Center for Allergy and Environment (ZAUM) describes the exposure to airborne allergens Bet v 1 for different PM (particulate matter) fractions of ambient air and birch pollen in Munich, Germany over 4 consecutive years. Qualitatively, the pollen counts well represented allergen exposure. However, quantitatively the potency of pollen to release allergen varied up to 10-fold between different days and also between different years. The explanation the authors is that allergen is absent in pollen for up to 6 days before pollination. Just before pollination Bet v 1 rapidly increased from zero to high levels. Depending on the exact date that pollination occurred, large differences between allergen release from pollen can occur. Although birch pollen looks the same, their potency to release allergen varies substantially.


Upcoming meetings

- 9th International Congress on Aerobiology "Expanding Aerobiology"
quadrennial congress of the International Association for Aerobiology
August 23 – 27, 2010
Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales “Bernardino Rivadavia” Buenos Aires – Argentina

- 22nd Conference of the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology
Seoul, Korea, August 28-September 1, 2010