New research from Ain Shams University in Egypt finds that allergies are on the rise in Africa, but with a parallel increase in immune deficiency diseases and not enough specialists to treat people, the findings are worse than anticipated.
Across Africa, many communities are faced daily with sewage-contaminated water supplies, unsanitary living conditions and parasite infestations. But rather than strengthening their immune responses, as the hygiene hypothesis would suggest, asthma and allergies are more common and more severe.
People in Africa can be exposed to many risk factors: foods, animals and birds, house dust mites, mold spores, stinging insects and aeroallergens like smoke and pollen.
Data collected in Cape Town, Nairobi, the urban Ivory Coast and other areas found asthma rates of 18-20 percent, which is comparable to rates seen in populations in the West. Those rates can’t be explained by differences in hygiene conditions alone.
“There are many pre-hygiene situations across the continent,” said Dr. Elham Hossny, Professor of Pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital, Ain Shams University in Egypt and one of the authors of the study. “Still there is growing prevalence of allergic disease.”
HIV and primary immunodeficiency diseases (PIDs) are exacerbating the problem. The rate of new HIV infections in high-prevalence areas across Africa is still very high, and although only 2,500 patients have been diagnosed with PIDs, the number is estimated to be more like 988,000.
Hossny and his team published their research article in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, concluding that the solution is more funding, motivated governments and better scientific partnerships.
For additional allergy information from World Allergy Week 2018, see this link.