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Scientists have finally scratched the surface about why, exactly, poison ivy makes people so itchy.

About 10 million Americans suffer from an allergic reaction to poison ivy every year. It’s a serious threat to firefighters, farmers, and others who work outdoors; poison ivy is to blame for 10 percent of the US Forest Service’s lost-time injuries. Now, researchers looking for clues about how poison ivy causes allergic reactions have stumbled upon a key chemical that offers some answers — and points to a potential treatment.


“It’s the most common cause of environmental contact allergy,” said Sven-Eric Jordt, an inflammation researcher at Duke University and the lead author of the new research, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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