Thomas Volz has received the ADF/ECARF Award 2016 for his work* on the association between the gut microbiome and anaphylactic reactions to food allergens. The annual €5,000 endowed ADF/ECARF Award was presented at the 43rd conference (10-12 March 2016) of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Dermatologische Forschung (ADF – Working Group for Dermatological Research) in Vienna.
Prof Dr Torsten Zuberbier, chairman of the European Centre for Allergy Research Foundation (ECARF) and chairman of the jury, says: “This year’s award-winning work is outstanding because it demonstrates new associations between the composition of the gut bacteria (microbiome) and the severity of allergies. The bacterial colony in the gut varies from person to person and changes according to altered eating habits, smoking behaviour, and also medications such as antibiotics.”
Microbiomes describe the composition of microorganisms (microbiota) according to their genes in areas of the human body, for example, the microbiome of the skin, gut or mucosa. The microorganisms living inside the human body outnumber human cells ten to one and are increasingly attracting the interest of researchers, since they play a very significant role in many of the processes of life, such as digestion.
Volz and his team investigated whether immune signals of the gut microbiome have an influence on sensitisation to food allergens and the severity of allergic reactions. The molecule peptidoglycan (PGN), which is present in gut bacteria, is recognised by pattern recognition receptors in the immune system. One of these receptors is NOD2. The researchers discovered that the immune recognition by NOD2 plays a critical role in the immune response of the body’s own T helper cells. If the NOD2 receptor is missing, the production of immunoglobulin E (IgE) increases and leads to severe anaphylactic reactions. The reason for this lies in changes in the gut microorganisms. This is also the key to new perspectives in therapy and prevention, as sensitisation to food allergens could be significantly attenuated through changes to the bacterial colonies in the gut.
The research work may have great significance for the future treatment of patients with food allergies.
The study was conducted in collaboration with scientists from the Technical University of Munich and Universitäts-Hautklinik Tübingen (University Dermatology Clinic of Tuebingen).