Allergy and immunology in Africa: Challenges and unmet needs

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Abstract

The tremendous increase in allergy in the African continent cannot simply be explained by the change in public hygiene. There are many “prehygiene” communities with sewage-contaminated water supplies, helminth infestations, bare footedness, and poor housing, and still there is a high prevalence of allergic disease. Africans can be exposed to many risk factors facilitating severe asthma and wheezing, including airborne viruses, smoke, indoor dampness, cockroaches, and poor access to health care. Although the reporting on food allergy is inadequate to perform systematic reviews or meta-analyses, the available data suggest that food allergy is underdiagnosed. The rate of new HIV infections in high-prevalence settings in Africa remains unacceptably high. Although the annual number of new HIV infections in Sub-Saharan Africa has decreased lately, new HIV infections in the Middle East and North Africa region have increased; however, the current prevalence of 0.1% is still among the lowest globally. Africa is densely populated, and consanguineous mating is high in some areas of North and Sub-Saharan Africa. This allows for emergence of many autosomal recessive primary immunodeficiency diseases. There is urgent need for the establishment of primary immunodeficiency disease registries, stem cell transplantation facilities, and neonatal screening programs. To address these expanding problems and perform local cutting-edge research, Africans need to be empowered by motivated governments, dedicated funds, and compassionate scientific partnership.

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