Background: Atopy is consistently associated with asthma, except in a study in Africa. We assessed the association between atopy and asthma in women from a semirural area of Tanzania (East Africa).
Methods: All pregnant women delivering at the district hospital during a 1-year period were recruited (n=658, 60.6% of those selected). Asthma was investigated by a standard questionnaire and atopy by specific IgE (immunoglobulin E) antibodies to Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus (Der p 1) and cockroach.
Results: The prevalence of wheezing chest was 10.7%; of asthma, 3.5%. Levels of specific IgE of >0.35 kU/l (73%) and high levels of total IgE (62% higher than 1000 kU/l) were highly prevalent. Specific IgE antibody levels in sera were not associated with asthma (3.8% of women with negative specific IgE to any antigen had asthma in comparison to 4.0% of women with positive specific IgE; odds ratio [OR]=1.06, 0.35–3.22). Total IgE was not different between women with asthma and women without asthma (P=0.36).
Conclusions: In tropical regions, the association between allergy and asthma is complex, and specific IgE reactivity to environmental allergens may not be related to asthma.