Skip to main content Deutsch


Atopica diseases in changing climate and air quality

Atopic diseases in changing climate and air.

The climate change forecast for the next decades in Europe indicates, according to estimates by the World Climate Council, that the frequency of extreme weather such as periods of heat-waves, droughts and floods will increase. The impact on vegetation, agriculture and air quality may affect our health, especially as a consequence of an increased risk of allergy. The EU project, entitled “Atopic diseases in changing climate, land use and air quality”, coordinated by Michelle Epstein, from the Medical University of Vienna Department of Dermatology, is investigating this phenomenon.

Atopic is defined as a genetically-determined inclination to generate excessive immune defence responses to harmless foreign proteins such as pollens, molds, and dust mites to name a few. The project, will focus on “Ambrosia artemisiifolia L.”,commonly called “ragweed”, which is a member of the aster family and is rapidly invading Europe. Ragweed pollen is highly allergenic and is responsible for causing mild to very severe hay fever, eczema and asthma. The importance of Ambrosia cannot be understated due to the alarming rate at which it is spreading through Europe and the very high frequency at which Europeans are becoming allergic to it. Our hope with this project is to improve our understanding of the changes of multiple environmental stress factors on allergic disease, develop scenarios of disease risk currently and in the future, and provide useful information for response policies at national and European levels. The project plan involves investigating the effects of global warming, air quality and land use, on the distribution of Ambrosia artemisiifolia and its pollen, on human health using computer modelling, clinical studies and experimental models. The project will be investigating at-risk patient groups including elderly and young children with Ambrosia allergy, searching for predictive biomarkers and combining all project data to help us understand the response to pollen in order to spot future trends and risks early on.The EU “Atopica” project includes a combination of cellular and molecular biologists, immunologists, allergists, dermatologists, climate researchers and air quality experts as well as land use specialists from Austria, France, Great Britain, Germany, Belgium, Italy, and Croatia. The project is set to run for three years.

Researchers of the Medical University

The Medical University of Vienna is project coordinator under the leadership of Dr. Michelle Epstein, Department of Dermatology, Division of Immunology, Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Dr. Michelle Epstein

Head of project

Department of Dermatology
Division of Immunology, Allergy and Infectious Diseases


TopicENV.2011. 1.2. 1-1 Environmental change and its effects on atopic diseases (allergies, asthma, eczema) in Europe, Small, Medium- Collaborative project
Project Duration01.10.2011 – 30.09.2014
Funding volume, total3,497,160.14€
Fundig volume, Medical Univesity of Vienna977,824.60€


The Atopica project analyses the effects of climate change on the human health. Find out more about Atopica on their project website.