Background The clinical significance of food-specific IgG subclasses in food allergy and tolerance remains unclear. Specific IgG titres are often reported in non-standardized units, which do not allow comparisons between studies or allergens.
Objective To quantify, in absolute units, ovalbumin (OVA)- and peanut-specific IgG levels in children with peanut or egg allergy (active or resolved) and in non-allergic controls.
Methods Children aged 1–15 years were recruited. Peanut allergy was diagnosed by convincing history and a 95% predictive level of specific IgE; egg allergy or resolution was confirmed by oral challenge. Serum IgG, IgG1 and IgG4 levels (μg/mL) to OVA and peanut extract were quantified by ELISA.
Results OVA- and peanut-specific IgG was detected in all subjects. In non-allergic controls (n=18), OVA-specific IgG levels were significantly higher than peanut-specific IgG (median μg/mL IgG=15.9 vs. 2.2, IgG1=1.3 vs. 0.6, IgG4=7.9 vs. 0.7; P<0.01). There were no differences in OVA-specific IgG, IgG1 and IgG4 between egg-allergic (n=40), egg-resolved (n=22) and control (n=18) subjects. In contrast, peanut-specific IgG (median μg/mL IgG=17.0, IgG1=3.3, IgG4=5.2) were significantly higher in peanut-allergic subjects (n=59) compared with controls and with non-peanut-sensitized but egg-allergic subjects (n=26). Overall, the range of IgG4 was greater than IgG1, and IgG4 was the dominant subclass in >60% of all subjects.
Conclusion OVA-specific IgG levels of egg-allergic, egg-resolved or control groups are not distinguishable. Higher peanut-specific IgG levels are associated with clinical allergy, but the range of IgG titres of the allergic and control groups overlapped. Hence, OVA and peanut-specific IgG measurements do not appear to be of diagnostic value. Strong IgG responses to OVA may be a normal physiological response to a protein frequently ingested from infancy, whereas up-regulated IgG responses in peanut allergy may be indicative of a dysregulated immune response to peanut allergens.