Allergens in household dust and serological indicators of atopy and sensitization in Detroit children with history-based evidence of asthma

Ann Houston Williams, James Travis Smith, Edward E Hudgens, Scott Rhoney, Halûk Ozkaynak, Robert G Hamilton, Jane E Gallagher
Journal of Asthma 2011, 48 (7): 674-84

BACKGROUND: Home exposure to allergens is an important factor in the development of sensitization and subsequent exacerbations of allergic asthma. We investigated linkages among allergen exposure, immunological measurements, and asthma by examining (1) reservoir dust allergen levels in homes, (2) associations between presence of allergens in homes and sensitization status of resident children, and (3) associations between asthma status and total IgE, atopy (by Phadiatop), and positive allergen-specific tests.

METHODS: The study protocol was approved by Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill; Westat, Inc.; and the US Environmental Protection Agency Human Research Protocol Office. Data were collected from questionnaires, serum analyses, and household vacuum dust. Children (n = 205) were predominately African American (AA) (85.4%) and 51.6% were asthmatic. Sera from 185 children and home dust samples (n = 141) were analyzed for total and specific IgE antibodies to allergens from cat and dog dander, cockroach, dust mites, mice, rats, and molds.

RESULTS: Sixty percent of the homes had detectable levels of three or more dust allergens. The proportions of children with positive allergen-specific IgE tests were dust mite (32%), dog (28%), cat (23%), cockroach (18%), mouse (5%), rat (4%), and molds (24-36%). Children testing positive to a single allergen also had positive responses to other allergens. Those children with positive serum tests for cat, dog, and dust mite lived in homes with detectable levels of cat (51%), dog (90%), and dust mite (Der f 1) (92%) allergens. Correlations between children's specific IgE levels and dust levels were linearly related for dog (p < .04), but not for cat (p = .12) or dust mite (Der f 1) (p = .21). Odds ratios (95% CI) for the associations between asthma and serum-specific IgE were over 1.0 for cat, dog, dust mite (Der f 1), cockroach, and four types of molds. House dust allergen exposure levels, however, exhibited no differences between asthmatic and non-asthmatic homes.

CONCLUSIONS: Both the co-occurrence of multiple allergens in dust and the high frequency of multiple allergen sensitizations indicate that a broad-based intervention aimed at reducing multiple allergens (pets, pests, and molds) would be more successful than any approach that aimed at reducing one type of allergen.

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