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Primary versus secondary immunoglobulin E sensitization to soy and wheat in the Multi-Centre Allergy Study cohort


Paolo Maria Matricardi, Department of Pediatric Pneumology and Immunology, Charité Medical Center, Augustenburger Platz 1, D-13353, Berlin, Germany.


Background IgE sensitization to soy and wheat is classified as ‘primary’ when generated by food ingestion and ‘secondary’ when it as a consequence of primary sensitization to cross-reacting pollen antigens via inhalation. The age-specific relevance of these categories of sensitization throughout childhood is unknown.

Objective To monitor the natural course of IgE sensitization against common food allergens in childhood in relation to sensitization against cross-reactive airborne allergens.

Methods The German Multi-Centre Allergy Study with follow-up from birth to age 13 recruited initially 1314 children. IgE antibody levels against cow's milk, hen's egg, soy, wheat, mites, cat and dog dander, birch and grass pollens were tested. Longitudinal data were analysed from the 273 children with sera obtained at age 2, 5, 7 and 10 years of age.

Results The point prevalence of sensitization (>1.0 kU/L) to milk and egg allergens progressively decreased from about 4% at 2 years to <1% at 10 years. By contrast, the prevalence of IgE to wheat and soy progressively increased with age, from 2% to 7% (soy) and from 2% to 9% (wheat). At 10 years of age, IgE to grass pollen was detected in 97% and 98% of the children reacting against soy and wheat, respectively; IgE to birch pollen was observed in 86% and 82% of the children reacting against soy and wheat, respectively. Early IgE sensitization to soy or wheat preceded that to grass or birch pollen in only 4% and 8% of participants sensitized to soy and wheat, respectively.

Conclusion IgE sensitization to soy and wheat is relatively uncommon and mostly primary in early infancy, more frequent and mostly secondary to pollen sensitization at school age.

Clinical Implications Awareness should be raised to avoid unnecessary diet restrictions due to the high frequency of clinically irrelevant, secondary sensitization to soy and wheat in schoolchildren with pollinosis.