Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Salt May Increase Eczema Risks

Salt May Increase Eczema Risks

Saturday, 23 February, 2019 - 06:45
London - Usama Numan
German scientists said their lab experiments showed that salt leads to the formation of immune cells that become more active in allergic conditions such as eczema. The researchers also detected elevated salt concentrations in the skin of eczema patients.

Salt apparently affects allergic immune reactions, they noted.

In industrial countries, nearly one in three people are affected by allergies at some point in their lives. One in ten children suffers from atopic dermatitis, which is a type of skin inflammation that results in itchy, red, swollen, and cracked skin, and a secretion of fluids in some cases.

Researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) said their experiments on cell cultures demonstrated that salt leads to the formation of Th2 cells, a subgroup of T cells.

T-cells play an important role in immune conditions of this kind. They are a vital aspect of the body's resistance to infections, but, if uncontrolled, can also develop pathological responses and start attacking parts of our bodies or innocuous substances such as allergens. Th2 cells can play a role in inflammatory skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis.

Table salt, known scientifically as sodium chloride, is essential to the health of humans and animals. In the body it occurs in the form of sodium and chlorine ions. Christina Zielinski, professor at TUM's Institute of Virology said her team was able to demonstrate that sodium chloride can induce a state in human T cells that causes them to produce increased amounts of the proteins IL-4 and IL-13 involved in eczema.

Types of T-cells, which should not cause allergies, can, in the presence of salt, turn into Th2 cells. The changes are reversed when the T cell is again exposed to lower salt levels, Zielinski said.

Researchers said that measuring sodium concentrations in the tissue is complicated despite the possibility of measuring "dissolved salt in blood". But for the skin, they needed the help of colleagues in nuclear chemistry and physics.

The sodium levels in the affected skin areas of patients suffering from eczema proved to be up to 30 times higher than in healthy skin.

"The higher sodium levels in the affected skin neatly match another characteristic of atopic dermatitis; it has been known for some time that patients with this condition have elevated levels of the bacterium Staphylococcus Aureus on their skin. These are bacteria, which thrive under salty conditions, in contrast to other commensal bacteria, which are in fact harmed by salt," said professor Zielinski.

The researchers said they have not yet been able to show how these large quantities of salt find their way to the skin.

Editor Picks