Disproportionate fetal growth and raised IgE concentration in adult life

Authors

  • K. M. GODFREY,

    Corresponding author
    1. Medical Research Council Environmental Epidemiology Unit University of Southampton, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton, UK
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  • D. J. P. BARKER,

    1. Medical Research Council Environmental Epidemiology Unit University of Southampton, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton, UK
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  • C. OSMOND

    1. Medical Research Council Environmental Epidemiology Unit University of Southampton, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton, UK
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Dr K. M. Godfrey. Medical Research Council Environmental Epidemiology Unit, Southampton General Hospital. Southampton SO9 4XY. UK.

Abstract

Summary. A follow-up study was carried out to determine whether either impaired or disproportionate fetal growth are associated with a raised total serum IgE concentration in men and women aged 50 years. The serum IgE concentration was measured in 146 men and 134 women born in Preston (Lancashire, UK) between 1935 and 1943, whose size at birth had been measured in detail.

Sixty-two subjects were found to have an IgE concentration above 80 IU/ml. Compared with subjects with a normal IgE on average they had a 0.30 inch larger head circumference at birth (P -0.004) and weighed 5.6 ounces more at birth (P= 0.04). People with a raised and with a normal IgE were of similar crown-heel length at birth, indicating that in utero those with a raised IgE had had disproportionate growth of the head in relation to the trunk and limbs. The prevalence of a raised IgE rose from 14% in subjects whose head circumference at birth was 13 inches or less to 37% in those whose head circumference was more than 14 inches. This association was independent of gestational age at birth and of the mother's pelvic size and parity. It was also independent of adult physique, social class and smoking, and was similar in men and women. In multiple logistic regression analyses odds ratios of a raised IgE rose progressively to more than 4 as head circumference at birth increased from 13 inches or less to more than 14 inches.

One possibility is that these associations reflect the long-term effects of sustaining fetal brain growth at the expense of the trunk, in particular the thymus. This may be a consequence of fetal under-nutrition in late gestation.

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