Total serum IgE and its association with asthma symptoms and allergic sensitization among children

D L Sherrill, R Stein, M Halonen, C J Holberg, A Wright, F D Martinez
Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 1999, 104 (1): 28-36

BACKGROUND: Asthma and wheezing during childhood are associated with elevated total serum IgE and with allergic sensitization to local aeroallergens. However, little is known about the longitudinal relationship between total serum IgE and the development of wheezing and allergic sensitization during childhood.

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of our investigation was to determine the relationship between total serum IgE and the development of wheezing and allergic sensitization in childhood.

METHODS: Our study subjects were participants in the Tucson Children's Respiratory Study who underwent an IgE measurement in at least 1 of 3 surveys (at years 1, 6, and 11) and complete allergy skin tests during the latter 2 surveys. The children's phenotypes were categorized on the basis of skin test response (never, early, and late) and wheezing status (never, early, late, and persistent). Repeated-measures analyses were used, allowing subjects to be included who had unequal numbers of IgE observations (a total of 263 boys and 277 girls).

RESULTS: We found that total serum IgE levels track with age: subjects with high serum IgE levels less than 1 year old continued to have high IgE levels at ages 6 and 11 years. Both persistent wheezing and early sensitization were associated with high serum IgE levels at all ages. Boys who had late or persistent wheezing or who were sensitized early or late had high serum IgE levels as early as age 9 months, whereas only girls with persistent wheezing and early sensitization had elevated IgE levels at that age. Children who wheezed only in the first years of life and not after (ie, those with early wheezing) had serum IgE levels that were not different from those of nonwheezing children.

CONCLUSION: On the basis of these findings we conclude that although total serum IgE tracks with age, children who are predisposed to persistent wheezing and early sensitization to local aeroallergens already have high levels of IgE at age 9 months. This suggests that the predisposition to respond to environmental stimuli through high levels of IgE precede early allergic sensitization, indicating that there may be a common defect in the development of the immune system involving IgE production and early allergic sensitization.

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