Importance of house dust mite and Alternaria allergens in childhood asthma: an epidemiological study in two climatic regions of Australia


Ms J. K. Peat, c/- Professor A. J. Woolcock, Institute of Respiratory Medicine, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney NSW 2050, Australia.


The relation of house dust mite allergen levels to asthma and allergy was examined in two population samples of children aged 8–11 years in northern New South Wales. We studied 805 children in Lismore (a hot, humid, coastal region) and 770 in Moree/ Narrabri (a hot, dry inland region). Respiratory symptoms were measured by questionnaire, bronchial hyperresponsiveness (BHR) by histamine inhalation test, and allergy by skin-prick tests. Current asthma was defined as the presence of both wheeze in last 12 months and BHR. Der p I levels were measured in dust from the bed and floors in the homes of 57 randomly selected children in the coastal region and of 74 inland children. Der p I levels were significantly higher by the coast (83.0 vs 11.2 μg/g, P < 0.001). House dust mite sensitivity was of similar prevalence in both regions (28.6 vs 26.4%, n.s.) but Alternaria sensitivity was higher inland (4.0 vs 15.2%P < 0.001). Bronchial responsiveness was more severe in coastal children sensitized to house dust mites and in inland children who were sensitized to Alternaria. The adjusted odds ratios for current asthma in children sensitized to house dust mites were 21.3 (95% CI 10.5, 43.2) by the coast and 2.7 (95% CI 1.3, 5.4) inland, and in children sensitized to Alternaria were 3.4 (95% CI 1.3, 9.1) in the coastal region and 5.6 (95% CI 3.1, 10.1 inland. These studies suggest that high house dust mite allergen levels in a humid, subtropical region act to significantly increase bronchial responsiveness in sensitized children, and that Alternaria allergens have a similar but less potent action in a dry, rural region.