A study to be presented at the EAACI-WAO Congress 2013 later this week by Australian scientists has found that environmental factors during pregnancy may affect the chances of a child being born with food allergies more than previously believed.

The conference will be held in Milan and is jointly hosted by the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI) and the World Allergy Organization (WAO). A key topic this year will be the early origins of food allergies.

“Allergies and asthma are major public health problems affecting the lives of several hundred million people around the world, with an increasing prevalence in developing countries,” said EAACI president Cezmi Akdis. “Governments, and the general public, face huge direct and indirect costs, with major effects on macroeconomics due to health-care costs and loss of productivity of patients. I am confident that this congress will bring a lot of new information to tackle this huge and increasing global health problem.”

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