Stories about: dermatology

A new tactic for eczema? A newly identified brake on the allergic attack

baby with eczema
(Arkady Chubykin/Adobe Stock)

Eczema affects about 17 percent of children in developed countries. Often, it’s a gateway to food allergy and asthma, initiating an “atopic march” toward broader allergic sensitization. There are treatments – steroid creams and a recently approved biologic – but they are expensive or have side effects. A new study in Science Immunology suggests a different approach to eczema, one that stimulates a natural brake on the allergic attack.

The skin inflammation of eczema is known to be driven by “type 2” immune responses. These are led by activated T helper 2 (TH2) cells and type 2 innate lymphoid cells (ILC2s), together known as effector cells. Another group of T cells, known as regulatory T cells or Tregs, are known to temper type 2 responses, thereby suppressing the allergic response.

Yet, if you examine an eczema lesion, the numbers of Tregs are unchanged. Interestingly, Tregs comprise only about 5 percent of the body’s T cells, but up to 50 percent of T cells in the skin.

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Rash conclusions: Teledermatology as a “shared care” model

With a quick photograph by the pediatrician, a “mystery rash” can be diagnosed remotely.

“Hey, can you take a look at my patient’s rash?”

This question comes up on an almost-weekly basis at Martha Eliot Health Center, the community health center of Boston Children’s Hospital where I see children for primary care. While dermatologic conditions are common in pediatrics, and we, in the primary care setting, often know what to do about them, patients sometimes come in with rashes that don’t look like anything we’ve seen before. In these situations, we wish we could have a trained dermatologist just take a look, but the demand for new dermatology appointments at Boston Children’s is high and wait times for non-urgent clinic visits can be long.

From the dermatologists’ perspective, a large proportion of the patients in their clinic actually don’t actually need to be there—they have common conditions that can be managed in the primary care setting, in the patient’s medical home, in a much more convenient and cost-effective way.

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