After examining more than 53,000 individuals, researchers identified 16 new genetic associations related to common allergies, including pollen, dust-mite and cat allergies; as well as eight genetic variations for allergies that have previously been associated with asthma, according to researchers.

“We’ve seen some substantial increases in prevalence of allergies and asthma. Although environmental factors certainly play a role, our study reinforces the genetic link between common allergens and a person’s susceptibility to experiencing an allergic reaction,” said David Hinds, PhD, author and principal scientist for 23andMe, a privately-held genetic research laboratory. “Additionally, current estimates of the heritability of allergies are high, which suggests that understanding the genetic factors underlying allergic conditions may be key to understanding who might be most likely to suffer from allergies and how the condition might best be treated.”

Investigators believe genes implicated in the study highlight a series of key pathways in the biological basis of common allergies.

“Allergy is an important component of many diseases, including asthma, eczema and hay fever, which together account for a huge burden on patients and the health services,” said professor John Henderson of ALSPAC. “This is a very exciting time for allergy research. Genetic discoveries have identified specific pathways of allergy development that are not shared with allergic diseases like asthma. Understanding these pathways could lead to eventual development of drugs that cure or prevent allergy rather than just suppressing its symptoms.”