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Keywords:

  • atopic eczema;
  • food hypersensitivity;
  • food-specific serum IgE antibody;
  • IgE food sensitization;
  • infants

Summary

Background Studies of Australian infants have reported that more than 80% of those with moderate atopic eczema (AE) have high levels of IgE food sensitization (IgE-FS) that are commonly associated with IgE food allergy.

Objectives To explore the relationship between high levels of IgE-FS and AE in a large cohort of young children with eczema participating in a multi-centre, international study.

Methods Two thousand one hundred and eighty-four subjects (mean age 17.6 months, range 11.8–25.4; 1246 males) with active eczema from atopic families from 94 centres in 12 countries were studied. Clinical history, Scoring Atopic Dermatitis index as a measure of eczema severity and CAP-FEIA measurements for total IgE and IgE antibody levels to cow milk, egg and peanut were entered into a database. If CAP-FEIA levels exceeded previously reported age-specific cut-off levels for 95% positive predictive values (PPVs) for food allergy, subjects were defined as having high-risk IgE-FS (HR-IgE-FS).

Results Serum was available from 2048 patients; 55.5% were atopic. The frequency of HR-IgE-FS to milk, egg and/or peanut was the greatest in patients whose eczema developed in the first 3 months of life and the least in those whose eczema developed after 12 months (P<0.0001). In a regression analysis to allow for potential confounding factors, children with HR-IgE-FS had the most severe eczema and the youngest age of onset (P<0.001); 64% of infants with severe eczema of onset-age <3 months had HR-IgE-FS.

Conclusion Early-onset severe eczema in infancy was associated with HR-IgE-FS.

Clinical implications Food allergies should be routinely assessed in infants with moderate or severe eczema.

Capsule summary In eczematous infants, the earlier the age of onset, and the greater the severity of eczema, the greater the frequency of associated high levels of IgE-FS.