Does allergy begin in utero?

Ιt has been recognized for centuries that allergic disease runs in families, implying a role for genetic factors in determining individual susceptibility. More recently, a range of evidence shows that many of these genetic factors, together with in utero environmental exposures, lead to the development of allergic disease through altered immune and organ development. Environmental exposures during pregnancy including diet, nutrient intake and toxin exposures can alter the epigenome and interact with inherited genetic and epigenetic risk factors to directly and indirectly influence organ development and immune programming. Understanding of these factors will be essential in identifying at-risk individuals and possible development of therapeutic interventions for the primary prevention of allergic disease. In this review, we summarize the evidence that suggests allergic disease begins in utero, together with possible mechanisms for the effect of environmental exposures during pregnancy on allergic disease risk, including epigenetics.