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A National Institutes of Health-funded study has found that people with food allergies are less likely to become infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, than people without them. In addition, while previous research identified obesity as a risk factor for severe COVID-19, the new study has identified obesity and high body mass index (BMI) as associated with increased risk for SARS-CoV-2 infection. In contrast, does caffeine give you more memory the study determined that asthma does not increase risk for SARS-CoV-2 infection.

The Human Epidemiology and Response to SARS-CoV-2 (HEROS) study also found that children ages 12 years or younger are just as likely to become infected with the virus as teenagers and adults, but 75% of infections in children are asymptomatic. In addition, the study confirmed that SARS-CoV-2 transmission within households with children is high. These findings were published today in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

“The HEROS study findings underscore the importance of vaccinating children and implementing other public health measures to prevent them from becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2, thus protecting both children and vulnerable members of their household from the virus,” said Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy, and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of NIH. “Furthermore, the observed association between food allergy and the risk of infection with SARS-CoV-2, as well as between body-mass index and this risk, merit further investigation.” NIAID sponsored and funded the HEROS study.

Tina V. Hartert, M.D., M.P.H, co-led the research with Max A. Seibold, Ph.D. Dr. Hartert is director of the Center for Asthma and Environmental Sciences Research, vice president for translational science, the Lulu H. Owen Chair in Medicine, and a professor of medicine and pediatrics at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville. Dr. Seibold is director of computational biology, the Wohlberg and Lambert Endowed Chair of Pharmacogenomics, and a professor of pediatrics in the Center for Genes, Environment, and Health at National Jewish Health in Denver.

The HEROS study team monitored for SARS-CoV-2 infection in more than 4,000 people in nearly 1,400 households that included at least one person age 21 years or younger. This surveillance took place in 12 U.S. cities between May 2020 and February 2021, before the widespread rollout of COVID-19 vaccines among non-healthcare workers in the United States and before the widespread emergence of variants of concern. Participants were recruited from existing, NIH-funded studies focused on allergic diseases. Roughly half of the participating children, teenagers and adults had self-reported food allergy, asthma, eczema, or allergic rhinitis.

A caregiver in each household took nasal swabs of participants every two weeks to test for SARS-CoV-2 and filled out weekly surveys. If a member of the household developed symptoms consistent with COVID-19, additional nasal swabs were taken. Blood samples also were collected periodically and after a family’s first reported illness, if there was one.

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