People who carry defects in a certain gene may be at greater risk of developing allergic disorders such as asthma and eczema, a new study suggests.

In this week's issue of the British Medical Journal, researchers from the University of Edinburgh analyzed the results of 24 studies and concluded that mutations in the filaggrin gene significantly increase the risk of developing allergic sensitization and allergic disorders.

The filaggrin gene seems to be important for the skin to do its job of acting as a barrier against the environment.

"Evidence of the relation between filaggrin gene mutations and atopic eczema was strong, with people manifesting increased severity and persistence of disease," Aziz Sheikh of the university's allergy and respiratory research group and his co-author concluded in the study.

"Restoring skin barrier function in filaggrin-deficient people in early life may help prevent the development of sensitization and halt the development and progression of allergic disease."

After combining the results and taking differences in study quality into account, the researchers found the mutation was twice as common among people with both asthma and atopic eczema, but not among asthmatics without the skin condition.

The findings are important for understanding the genetic basis of allergy disorders, said an editorial accompanying the study written by Hugo Van Bever, a professor of pediatric allergy and immunology at National University Singapore, and his colleagues.