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By following infants over the first five years of their lives, our researchers strive to uncover the factors that cause asthma and allergies to develop.

Having a better knowledge of complicated airway diseases like asthma and allergies can help doctors to better understand why these issues start, and how we can prevent them.

St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton serves as the National Coordinating Centre for the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Study – a Canadian study that strives to discover how genes and environment can play a role in children’s development of asthma, allergies, and other chronic diseases

The study is following the development of infants from before birth to five years of age, using questionnaires, biological samples and clinical assessments to carefully measure the development of allergies, function of their lungs, and the environment that they live in.

By involving over 11 hospitals across Canada, researchers have recruited over 3,500 families – meaning that over 9,600 children, mothers and fathers are participating in the study. More than 40 researchers and staff are involved in CHILD.

Undertaking a study of this size has required substantial support from funding agencies, such as the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Allergy, Genes and Environment Network (AllerGen), a Network of Centres of Excellence, hosted at McMaster University. Additional funding for the study was provided by donors through the St. Joseph’s Healthcare Foundation.

Dr. Malcolm Sears, respirology researcher at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and professor at McMaster University, is the principal investigator and director of the study.

“Our role here in Hamilton is as the coordinating centre – like the conductor of an orchestra” states Dr. Sears. “We collect all of the study data and samples here, and provide these to teams of researchers to analyze. Last year alone, 12 publications have resulted from the CHILD Study data.”

Preliminary study data shows how air pollution and gut bacteria affect the early-life development of allergies and asthma.

“What we didn’t anticipate is the importance of the microbiome,” explains Dr. Sears. “Some of the recent publications have shown how important gut bacteria are to the development of asthma and allergies.”

Once the data has been collected and analyzed for all of the 3,500 families involved, the research team expect to be able to answer larger questions about the role of genetics and the home environment in the development of asthma, allergies and other chronic diseases.

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