Background Almost no information is available regarding the prevalence of IgE-mediated allergies and the disease-eliciting allergens in tropical Africa.
Objective To study IgE-mediated allergies and the allergen profile in allergic patients from Zimbabwe.
Methods The frequency of sensitization to common environmental allergen sources was determined by skin prick testing in 650 allergic patients from Zimbabwe. Fifty representative sera were analysed for IgE reactivity to 20 respiratory and 20 food allergen extracts by multiallergen extract testing. The IgE reactivity profiles to recombinant pollen and mite allergens were compared between grass pollen- and mite-sensitized patients from Zimbabwe and central Europe. Sera from grass pollen-allergic patients were also analysed for IgE reactivity to nitrocellulose-blotted natural timothy grass and Bermuda grass pollen allergens.
Results IgE-mediated allergies were found to be common in Zimbabwe. Similar to the situation in central Europe, mites and grass pollens represented the most prevalent allergen sources. However, the IgE reactivity profiles determined with single recombinant pollen and mite allergens revealed interesting differences between the European and African patients, which most likely reflect the local allergen exposure.
Conclusions The striking differences regarding sensitization to grass pollen and mite allergens between African and European patients revealed by recombinant allergen-based testing emphasize the need for component-resolved allergy testing to optimize allergy prevention and therapy in different populations.