Background Atopic sensitization to the house dust mite (HDM) is associated with altered antibody responses to the nasopharyngeal colonizing bacterium Haemophilus influenzae and children admitted to the emergency department for asthma exacerbation have reduced IgG responses to HDM allergens.
Objective To investigate anti-bacterial and anti-allergen antibody responses during convalescence from asthma exacerbation and differences found in exacerbations associated with and without viral infection.
Results IgE antibodies to the P6 bacterial antigen increased in 60% of sera during convalescence and for many children achieved titres as high as IgE titres to allergens. In contrast IgE anti-HDM titres declined during convalescence. The anti-bacterial IgE titres were the same in subjects with and without virus infection while the anti-HDM IgE declined more rapidly in virus-infected subjects. IgG titres to the major HDM allergens showed no consistent increase and the overall IgG anti-HDM titres even declined in subjects without a virus infection. Anti-bacterial IgG antibodies in contrast to IgE did not change. Patients with frequent episodic or persistent asthma had similar IgE anti-bacterial titres to patients with infrequent asthma during the acute phase, although they had reduced IgG titres to both the bacteria and the HDM.
Conclusions During the period following an acute exacerbation of asthma there was a marked and specific increase in anti-bacterial IgE compared with a reduced IgE response to HDM. This provides further support for the concept of T-helper type 2 responses to bacterial antigens playing a role in asthma pathogenesis.