Background: The effect of exposure to allergens not causing sensitisation in atopic asthmatic subjects has not previously been studied. A study was undertaken to assess the degree of asthma severity (measured by spirometry, airway reactivity and exhaled nitric oxide) in atopic asthmatic patients not sensitised to the domestic allergen to which they were exposed.
Methods: Dust samples were collected from the living room carpet and mattress in the homes of 248 subjects and dust mite, cat and dog allergen concentrations were measured. Spirometry, non-specific bronchial reactivity (BR), and exhaled nitric oxide (eNO) were ascertained. Patients’ sensitisation status was assessed by skin prick testing.
Results: Adult atopic asthmatics not sensitised to mite but exposed to high levels of mite allergen had significantly more severe BR than subjects not exposed to high levels of mite (PD20, geometric mean (GM) 0.21 mg (95% CI 0.09 to 0.47) v 0.86 mg (95% CI 0.44 to 1.67), mean ratio difference 4.1 (95% CI 1.5 to 11.4), p = 0.008). Subjects not sensitised but exposed to high levels of dog allergen also had significantly more severe BR than subjects not exposed (PD20 GM 0.16 v 0.52 mg, mean ratio difference 3.3 (95% CI 1.2 to 9.2), p = 0.01). The differences in BR between these groups were still significant after adjusting for confounding factors. This effect of greater airway reactivity was not seen in subjects exposed but not sensitised to cat allergens.
Conclusion: Atopic asthmatic subjects who are exposed to high levels of dust mite or dog allergens but not sensitised to these allergens have evidence of increased airway reactivity.
- BR, bronchial reactivity
- eNO, exhaled nitric oxide
- FEV1, forced expiratory volume in 1 second
- FVC, forced vital capacity
- bronchial reactivity
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