There are two new discoveries in the field of eczema treatment that could bring relief to the millions of Canadians who suffer from the itchy and irritating skin condition.
The New England Journal of Medicine recently published the results of two clinical trials of a new drug called Dupilumab that has shown to bestow considerable benefits on eczema sufferers, including eradication of atopic dermatitis (the most common form of eczema) at the irritation site. The promising results have prompted the FDA to expedite the drug’s review status, meaning it could be available as early as March 2017.
“This drug is very viable for several reasons,” says Dr. Jaggi Rao, dermatologist and clinical professor of medicine at the University of Alberta. “First, the mechanism of action is scientifically sound – we now understand the various components of the immune system that are altered to cause atopic dermatitis, and this drug positively affects this abnormality to control the disease. We have seen similar antibody therapies work magnificently for psoriasis, hidradenitis [a condition where lumps form under the skin] and other skin diseases, so it makes sense that this will work for eczema. This is very exciting because it will be the first biologic agent to be approved for debilitating eczema.”
His sentiments were echoed by Mona Gohara, a dermatology professor at Yale School of Medicine, who described the drug’s effects as “life changing” in an interview with StyleCaster.
Another inside-out remedy for atopic dermatitis was recently revealed by researchers at the University of Edinburgh. Human beta-defensin 2 (hBD2), a peptide that is naturally occurring in the body but usually lacking in those who suffer from atopic dermatitis, has been shown to stimulate cells to produce a protective compound on the skin’s surface. Sufferers of this condition typically carry a bacteria on their skin called staphylococcus aureus, which can cause infections and damage to the skin barrier, further exacerbating their irritation. By applying a topical version of hBD2, they can strengthen protection against bacterial damage.
While some dermatologists have lauded this discovery, others aren’t so hopeful.
“As a topical agent, we don’t know if there will be sufficient penetrative capability to exert an effect,” Dr. Rao says. “Also, there’s the question of whether a synthesized substance can work to replace a naturally occurring substance that is low, and it may not address other factors that are at play with eczema aside from bacterial influences.”
In the meantime, there are other measures atopic dermatitis sufferers can take to curb the condition. Dr. Lisa Kellett, dermatologist and founder of DLK on Avenue, advises taking baths (not showers) with tepid water, and applying an emollient to wet or damp skin can soothe symptoms.
“Atopic dermatitis is associated with allergies like asthma and hay fever, and people who have these conditions are prone to nut allergies, so it might be wise to avoid eating them,” she says. “Also steer clear of histamine releasing foods,” like tomatoes, eggs, shellfish and chocolate.