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Beyond the Bale : September 2018
34 OFF FARM Amajor focus of AWI’s Fibre Advocacy program is validating and communicating the health and wellbeing benefits of wool products. One of these benefits is skin health and specifically the therapeutic effect that wearing superfine Merino wool has on eczema. This has been an area in which AWI has been undertaking research since 2011, in relation to both infant and adult sufferers of eczema in Australia. As previously reported in Beyond the Bale, the studies concluded that traditional management guidelines for eczema should be modified to include superfine Merino wool as a recommended clothing choice. However, for the research to gain more traction globally, it is important that similar studies be also undertaken in large northern hemisphere markets. AWI therefore sought to undertake a study in the United States. However, this is not as straightforward as it sounds as dermatological research studies typically assess the therapeutic effects of moisturisers, steroids and other pharmaceuticals on patients. A paradigm shift in thinking is needed for dermatologists to contemplate clothing fibre type as potentially therapeutic. Fortunately, Professor Joe Fowler at Dermatology Specialists Research in Louisville, Kentucky, was open minded and willing to take up the challenge of committing two years of his An AWI-funded study in the United States of adults and children with symptoms of eczema has shown that wearing superfine Merino wool helps ease the eczema and improves the wearer’s quality of life. US STUDY BACKS WOOL TO AMELIORATE ECZEMA The research team at Dermatology Specialists Research in Louisville, Kentucky, that undertook the AWI-funded eczema study. research career to assessing Merino base- layer fabrics in this AWI-funded study. The trial evaluated the effect of wearing superfine Merino wool clothing versus ‘standard clothing’ when worn by adults and children (aged over 5 years) with eczema. As well as evaluating the effect of wearing wool clothing on the participants’ eczema, the study also assessed the effect on the participants’ quality of life. “I really liked the wool clothing, it’s comfortable and absolutely made my skin feel better; I still wear it one year out from the end of the study.” US eczema study participant The results were very positive, both in terms of the effect of wool on eczema symptoms and also on the participant’s quality of life. Comments about the Merino wool clothing from participants included: • “It certainly stopped the itching – I liked that! I think the longer you wear the clothing the more helpful it is.” • “Overall I thought it was very good. It took me a while to adjust to the texture of the material and the thought that I was wearing wool. But I could feel it working, my skin got softer and I wear it now when my skin needs help.” • “I still wear the clothing even though I've finished the study. I'm super sensitive about clothing and never keep any that are not comfortable.” PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS The study was a ‘cross-over’ study of adults and children with mild to moderate eczema. The average age of the 50 participants that completed the study was 26; 37 were female, 13 were male; 29 were Caucasian, 17 African American, 2 Hawaiian and 2 multi-racial. The 50 participants were split (randomised) into two groups. The first group was dressed in their current ‘standard wear’ and at six weeks changed to superfine Merino wool garments. The second group began with the superfine Merino wool and crossed over to their current ‘standard wear’. Participants were monitored over 12 weeks, with them seen by the researchers at 0, 3, 6, 9 and 12 weeks. They were assessed using clinical, physiological and quality of life outcome measures. There were significant decreases in mean Eczema Area & Severity Index (EASI) scores from Baseline to Week 3 in both groups, which were sustained from Week 3 to Week 6 – see Figure 1. (It is common for all participants who start studies to see an improvement in symptoms because of increased adherence to skin care and their medications. Hence the importance of the cross-over design to see a real effect.) Those who switched to Merino wool at Week 6 experienced a significant decrease in EASI scores, in contrast to those who switched to regular clothing. Similar results were observed for static Investigator Global Assessment (sIGA) – a measure for evaluating all the symptoms that when combined results in the diagnosis of eczema – with the additional finding that sIGA significantly decreased in those wearing Merino wool from Week 3 to Week 6. Dermatology Life Quality Index (DLQI) scores significantly decreased (the lower the score the better!) when Merino wool was worn over the first three weeks of wear, ie from Baseline to Week 3 in the ‘wool first’ group and from Week 6 to Week 9 in the ‘standard clothing first’ group – see Figure 2. WHERE TO FROM HERE? With the Australian-based studies of wool and eczema, and now this US-based study, showing clinically significant benefits, AWI’s Board has decided to ramp-up the rate of research by undertaking a multi-site parallel study in key markets. A compelling body of evidence is needed to overcome consumer misconceptions of wool as scratchy and a cause of allergy, so studies are now being commissioned in the US, Europe and Asia. Confirming wool’s benefits across these different geographic, climatic and skin types will enable strong marketing in these key markets.
In the Shops - September 2018