Contact allergy is a frequent condition (with up to 20% of the general population affected), and its clinical manifestation - allergic contact dermatitis (incidence approximately 7 per 1000 per year)- has considerable socioeconomic impact. Recommendations concerning primary prevention must be founded on sound scientific knowledge concerning occurrence of allergen exposures in the population. To provide such data on a European scale, the expert network ESSCA has been conceived.

The aim of ESSCA is the continuous analysis (surveillance) of pooled data for different purposes. This includes internal quality control, which is both a prerequisite, and an outcome of this multicentre activity. Furthermore, international comparisons which reflect the effects of a wider than strictly national allergen exposure variation, time-trend analyses, and subgroup analyses are performed, including the possible occurrence of known allergens in new exposure contexts. These analyses shall provide a valuable starting point for lowering the incidence of contact allergies. For industry, such analyses can serve the purpose of post marketing surveillance of product safety.

Scientific approach

The work of ESSCA can be divided into a technical part - an application of medical informatics - and a scientific part. The former includes the following:

  • Local interfaces for export of uniformly structured data for pooled analysis in those departments continuing to use their existing - heterogeneous - software.
  • Availability of a multilingual patch test software "WinAlldat/ESSCA" (see reference)
  • A co-ordinating data centre (see SOP for data management)

The scientifc work include first communal analyses of pooled data (as a first step towards continuous surveillance), internal reporting and discussion of data during workshops.