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Biomarkers may help distinguish irritant, allergic contact dermatoses

Researchers have identified biomarkers that can differentiate between irritant dermatitis and contact allergy, a finding they say could help patients get the correct treatment sooner.

In a paper published in PNAS (Dec. 14, 2020), the authors note that while contact dermatitis is a common occupational problem, there remains no easy way to diagnose between irritant-driven and allergen-driven dermatitis, which require different treatment approaches.

In an effort to improve this situation, researchers compared punch biopsies from lesional and healthy skin from 85 patients with contact dermatitis to examine the gene expression in the skin resulting from exposure to different allergens and irritants.

Using a machine-learning technique, they identified sets of two or three genes that together could distinguish irritant from allergic skin reactions. They found that their results were replicable in an independent group of patients, as well as in external datasets. The external datasets included patients who were exposed to different substances than those of the first group, which laid the foundation for the new biomarkers.

“Our results show that there is considerable potential for the development of a new diagnostic method based on these biomarkers,” said corresponding author Nanna Fyhrquist, PhD, in a press release. “The next step in the project entails a more extensive clinical validation of the markers and technical optimisation of the method in order to attain sufficient cost-effectiveness and speed to clinical purposes.”

Dr. Fyhrquist is a researcher and group leader at the Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet. Stockholm, Sweden.


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