Clinical symptoms and IgE responses to common food proteins in atopic and healthy children


Dr G. Hattevig, Department of Paediatrics, Central Hospital, 541 85 Skövde, Sweden.


The appearance of symptoms suggestive of allergy through the first 4 years of life was studied prospectively in eighty-six healthy newborn babies. Blood samples were obtained at birth, at 3,8,25 and 48 months of age and analyzed for levels of total serum IgE and for IgE antibodies to some common foods. The occurrence of IgE antibodies was related to atopic manifestations and to a detailed history of infant feeding and family history of allergy. All infants with elevated cord blood IgE (more than 1.3 kU/1) developed manifestations of atopy. Specific IgE antibodies against egg, cow's milk and soy were demonstrated at 3, 8, 25 and 48 months in nine, twenty-three, six and two children respectively. Egg was a more potent sensitizing agent than cow's milk, IgE antibodies to egg being present in thirty-one samples, to cow's milk in eleven and to soy in five samples. Nine infants developed IgE antibodies to eggs or cow's milk before the introduction of these nutrients into the food. The IgE antibody levels were generally low in healthy non-atopic children and did, with one exception, not reach RAST class 1. In contrast, the levels of IgE antibodies to egg or cow's milk were higher in eleven blood samples from atopic children. We conclude that transient low IgE antibody responses to food proteins appear relatively often even in healthy infants. High concentrations of IgE antibodies however are almost exclusively seen in infants with atopic disease. Sensitization may appear early in infancy sometimes even before the offending food has been introduced into the diet.