A study of almost 1000 babies in the UK and Denmark has shown that people carrying a mutant FLG gene had a twofold risk of developing eczema in their first year. This risk was doubled again if the baby was exposed to cats. The team at the University of Dundee also found that exposure to dogs had no effect on the risk of developing eczema. However, previous studies have found a positive effect of exposure to cats on eczema rates, and critics of this study claim it is far from conclusive.
Rates of eczema have been generally increasing in Western countries in the last few decades and previous studies have pointed to increased use of soaps and detergents as being partly responsible for this. It is widely thought that chemicals which cause allergic reactions also enhance the symptoms of eczema. The FLG gene is believed to be crucial in maintaining the skin’s role as a protective barrier, but a mutation in this gene alone does not always result in development of eczema.