Background The prevalence of sensitization to fungi in young atopic patients in relation to age and clinical importance is largely unknown.
Objective The aim of this study was to investigate the prevalence of sensitization to different fungi in atopic children in relation to age and other aeroallergens.
Methods A total of 137 atopic children (male 62%, female 38%; mean age 5 years and 9 months, range 5 months−14 years) were studied. Sera of all patients were routinely tested for total IgE and specific IgE against aeroallergens and milk. Positive sera were also tested for IgE against Alternaria alternata, Aspergillus fumigatus, Cladosporium herbarum and Penicillium chrysogenum, using the Pharmacia Enzyme CAP procedure.
Results In this study in atopic children total IgE showed a significant linear relation with age, whereas specific IgE against outdoor fungi, indoor fungi and house dust mite showed significant non-linearity with age. Prevalence of specific IgE for Cladosporium ranked first, followed closely by Aspergillus and Alternaria. Calculation of the sensitization of indoor and outdoor fungi showed maximum prevalence at 7.8 years, followed by lower values at higher ages. A similar significant relation was also found for Alternaria, while this relation was not significant for the other individual fungi. Specific IgE for indoor and outdoor fungi was associated with the presence of specific IgE for aeroallergen and milk. We found that all children aged 4 years and older showed IgE for house dust mite that did not decline with increasing age.
Conclusions Sensitization to fungi is prevalent in childhood, with an age-dependent distribution reaching maximum values at 7.7–7.8 years, followed by a decline for all fungal sensitization with increasing age. The importance and relative contribution of fungal sensitization to airway disease, compared with the other allergens, remains to be established.