Background The pattern of associations and the attributable fractions (AF) of atopic conditions due to specific sensitizations vary between countries.
Objective To assess the level of associations and AF between sensitization to five allergens and atopic conditions in two settings.
Methods We studied 2063 Brazilians and 1231 Chileans of both sexes using representative samples selected at birth in the 1970s. Information on asthma and rhinitis was based on the European Community Respiratory Health Survey questionnaire. We assessed bronchial hyperresponsiveness (BHR) to methacholine and sensitization to Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus, cat, dog, grass blend and Alternaria alternata.
Results The prevalence of sensitization to one or more allergens was 50% in Brazilians and 22% in Chileans. The level of associations varied according to the outcome used. Strong associations between sensitization and asthma, defined as wheeze or awakening with breathlessness at night and positive BHR, were found for each of the five allergens in Chileans [varying from odds ratio (OR) 3.24, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.47, 7.15 for D. pteronyssinus to 8.44, 95% CI 3.82, 18.66 for cat], whereas the level of associations was restricted to D. pteronyssinus, cat and dog in Brazilians and was somewhat weaker (highest OR 3.90, 95% CI 2.80–5.44). The AF of sensitization on asthma was 54% in Brazil and 44% in Chile. D. pteronyssinus and cat made an independent contribution to asthma in the two samples. The patterns of associations between sensitization and rhino-conjunctivitis were similar to those for asthma.
Conclusion The associations between sensitization, and asthma and rhinitis were high in Chile and moderately high in Brazil, but the AF were higher in Brazil, reflecting a higher prevalence of sensitization. In Brazil, dust mite had the greatest impact on atopic conditions while in Chile several allergens had an impact. Sensitization is as serious a problem in Chile and Brazil as in developed countries.