IgE, parasites and asthma in Tanzanian children


Dr F. Carswell, Department of Child Health, Royal Hospital for Sick Children, St Michael's Hill, Bristol BS2 8BJ.


Two rural Tanzanian primary schools were surveyed to test the hypothesis that parasitic infestation prevents the development of asthma. 242 pupils were interviewed to determine the prevalence of pupils with recurrent episodes of wheezing. The nineteen pupils so discovered had more exercise-induced bronchial lability than equivalently exercised controls. More girls (12.8%) than boys (3.3%) had asthma. In one school, 77% of the controls had faecal parasites, mainly Ascaris spp., and in the other school 55% of the controls had Schistosoma haematobium in their urine. Parasites were found in similar proportions in the asthmatics. The mean serum IgE for the whole population was 3174 u/ml with no demonstrable difference between the asthmatics and controls. There was no difference in immediate cutaneous hypersensitivity to twenty-two allergens between the asthmatics and controls. These findings suggest that parasitic infestation does not prevent the development of asthma.