In less than half a century, allergy, originally perceived as a rare disease, has become a major public health threat, today affecting the lives of more than 60 million people in Europe, and probably close to one billion worldwide, thereby heavily impacting the budgets of public health systems. More disturbingly, its prevalence and impact are on the rise, a development that has been associated with environmental and lifestyle changes accompanying the continuous process of urbanization and globalization. Therefore, there is an urgent need to prioritize and concert research efforts in the field of allergy, in order to achieve sustainable results on prevention, diagnosis and treatment of this most prevalent chronic disease of the 21st century.
The European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI) is the leading professional organization in the field of allergy, promoting excellence in clinical care, education, training and basic and translational research, all with the ultimate goal of improving the health of allergic patients. The European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients’ Associations (EFA) is a non-profit network of allergy, asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD) patients’ organizations. In support of their missions, the present EAACI Position Paper, in collaboration with EFA, highlights the most important research needs in the field of allergy to serve as key recommendations for future research funding at the national and European levels.
Although allergies may involve almost every organ of the body and an array of diverse external factors act as triggers, there are several common themes that need to be prioritized in research efforts. As in many other chronic diseases, effective prevention, curative treatment and accurate, rapid diagnosis represent major unmet needs. Detailed phenotyping/endotyping stands out as widely required in order to arrange or re-categorize clinical syndromes into more coherent, uniform and treatment-responsive groups. Research efforts to unveil the basic pathophysiologic pathways and mechanisms, thus leading to the comprehension and resolution of the pathophysiologic complexity of allergies will allow for the design of novel patient-oriented diagnostic and treatment protocols. Several allergic diseases require well-controlled epidemiological description and surveillance, using disease registries, pharmacoeconomic evaluation, as well as large biobanks. Additionally, there is a need for extensive studies to bring promising new biotechnological innovations, such as biological agents, vaccines of modified allergen molecules and engineered components for allergy diagnosis, closer to clinical practice. Finally, particular attention should be paid to the difficult-to-manage, precarious and costly severe disease forms and/or exacerbations. Nonetheless, currently arising treatments, mainly in the fields of immunotherapy and biologicals, hold great promise for targeted and causal management of allergic conditions. Active involvement of all stakeholders, including Patient Organizations and policy makers are necessary to achieve the aims emphasized herein.