The allergic skin disorder affects 15 per cent of young people in industrialised countries. Its trigger is not fully understood, but previous epidemiological studies have suggested that a strong genetic component underlies the condition.
Researchers analysed the genomes of 3,011 people. A third had atopic dermatitis, a third were controls and the rest were from families in which at least two siblings had the condition.
They found a risk variant for atopic dermatitis on chromosome 11, which is found in about 13 per cent of European people.
People who had the variant were found to be 1.47 times more likely to develop atopic dermatitis than non-carriers.
The gene variant is widespread in Crohn's disease patients and could be part of a common disease mechanism for chronic inflammation, the researchers said.
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