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Keywords:

  • food allergy;
  • egg white;
  • immunoglobulin A;
  • neutralizing antibodies;
  • tolerance induction

Abstract

Background

Decreased serum food-specific IgA antibodies have been associated with allergic disease in cross-sectional, case–control studies. The purpose of this study was to prospectively compare egg-white-(EW)-specific IgA and IgA2 levels between egg-allergic children and children tolerating egg.

Methods

Seventeen egg-allergic children were followed prospectively. Total IgA, EW-specific IgA, and EW-specific IgA2 levels were measured in their sera with a sensitive ELISA. As negative controls were used children with no previous history of egg allergy. Egg-allergic children with or without concomitant milk allergy were evaluated as additional controls with measurement of casein-specific IgA.

Results

After 2.5 ± 0.9 yrs, nine out of the 17 allergic children became tolerant and eight remained allergic to baked egg. Baseline EW-specific IgA2 levels were significantly lower in the egg-allergic subjects (median 23.9 ng/ml) compared with the negative control subjects (99.4 ng/ml) and increased significantly by 28% over the study time period in eight out of the nine allergic children that became tolerant to baked egg. There was no significant change over time in EW-specific IgA in any of the study groups. Non-milk-allergic subjects with concomitant egg allergy had almost threefold higher casein-specific IgA levels than the milk- and egg-allergic subjects (p = 0.025).

Conclusions

These results suggest a potential role for allergen-specific IgA2 antibodies in the induction of food tolerance. Furthermore, they support the hypothesis that immature or impaired production of allergen-specific IgA2 may be associated with the pathophysiology of food allergy, a defect that seems to be selective for the culprit allergen.