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Keywords:

  • atopy;
  • eczema;
  • infants;
  • sensitization

Background:  No study has compared allergic sensitization patterns in infants with atopic eczema from different countries. The aim of this study was to investigate the patterns of allergic sensitization in a cohort of infants with atopic eczema participating in a multicentre, international study.

Methods:  Two thousand one hundred and eighty-four infants (mean age 17.6 months) with atopic eczema from allergic families were screened in 94 centres in 12 countries to participate in a randomized trial for the early prevention of asthma. Clinical history, Severity Scoring of Atopic Dermatitis Index, measurements for total serum IgE and specific IgE antibodies to eight food and inhalant allergens were entered into a database before randomization to treatment. A history of type of feeding in the first weeks of life and exposure to animals was recorded.

Results:  A total of 52.9% of the infants had raised total IgE, and 55.5% were sensitized to at least one allergen. There was a wide difference in the total IgE values and in the sensitization rates to foods and aeroallergens among infants from different countries. The highest prevalence rates of allergen-sensitized infants were found in Australia (83%), the UK (79%) and Italy (76%). Infants from Belgium and Poland consistently had the lowest sensitization rates. In each country, a characteristic pattern of sensitization was found for aeroallergens (house dust mite > cat > grass pollen > Alternaria), but not for food allergens.

Conclusions:  In infants with atopic eczema, there is a wide variation in the pattern of allergic sensitization between countries, and data from one country are not necessarily generalizable to other countries.