Background Sensitization to Alternaria alternata is a risk factor for the development of wheezing and asthma. Alt a 1 is the major Alternaria allergen causing sensitization in asthmatics. Some atopic dermatitis (AD) patients have very high immunoglobulin (Ig)E antibody (ab) to Alternaria as analysed by Pharmacia CAP, however, it is not clear whether these are specific responses or whether Alt a 1 is involved in disease symptoms.
Objective The aim of this study was to analyse specific IgE and IgG ab responses to recombinant Alt a 1 in asthmatic and AD patients and to compare these results to IgE ab against Alternaria measured by CAP.
Methods Sera from individuals who were IgE positive to Alternaria by CAP were obtained from 58 patients with asthma/rhinitis, 19 patients with AD, and 20 patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) who were included as specificity controls. IgE and IgG ab to recombinant Alt a 1 were measured by radioimmunoassay (RIA).
Results Of 43 asthma/rhinitis patients having an Alternaria CAP score > 2, a high percentage (93%) had both IgE and IgG ab to Alt a 1, emphasizing its importance as a major allergen. Only, 47% of AD patients with CAP score greater than 2 had ab to Alt a 1, and their levels were low when compared to the asthmatics. For CF controls, 75% of these patients had no IgE ab to Alt a 1, and those which were positive to Alt a 1 by RIA were also positive by CAP. Overall, patients with a low CAP (1–2) had a low prevalence (20–30%) of IgE or IgG ab to Alt a 1.
Conclusion IgE and IgG ab to Alt a 1 in asthmatics are good markers for sensitization to Alternaria. Although AD patients gave high Alternaria CAP scores, they had low or undetectable levels of IgE to Alt a 1, suggesting that other Alternaria allergens may be important in AD or that the CAP results are non-specific. Recombinant allergens may provide more specific measures of sensitization to fungi.