Background/aim: The true prevalence and risk factors of food allergies in children are not known because estimates were based predominantly on subjective assessments and skin or serum tests of allergic sensitization to food. The diagnostic gold standard, a double-blind placebo-controlled food provocation test, was not performed consistently to confirm suspected allergic reactions in previous population studies in children. This protocol describes the specific aims and diagnostic protocol of a birth cohort study examining prevalence patterns and influential factors of confirmed food allergies in European children from different regions.
Methods: Within the collaborative translational research project EuroPrevall, we started a multi-center birth cohort study, recruiting a total of over 12 000 newborns in nine countries across Europe in 2005-2009. In addition to three telephone interviews during the first 30 months, parents were asked to immediately inform the centers about possible allergic reactions to food at any time during the follow-up period.
Results: All children with suspected food allergy symptoms were clinically evaluated including double-blind placebo-controlled food challenge tests. We assessed sensitization to different food allergens by measurements of specific serum immunoglobulin E and skin prick tests, collect blood, saliva or buccal swabs for genetic tests, breast milk for measurement of food proteins/cytokines, and evaluate quality-of-life and economic burden of families with food allergic children.
Conclusions: This birth cohort provides unique data on prevalence, risk factors, quality-of-life, and costs of food allergies in Europe, leading to the development of more informed and integrated preventative and treatment strategies for children with food allergies.