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High levels of airborne mouse allergen in inner-city homes could trigger asthma attacks

The amount of mouse allergen found in the air in many inner-city homes could be high enough to trigger asthma symptoms in the children who live there, say researchers at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center. Their study, published in the February issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, found more than a quarter of inner-city homes sampled had airborne allergen levels already known to aggravate asthma symptoms in animal research lab workers with mouse allergy.

"Children living in inner-city homes are continuously exposed to the allergy-causing substance found in mouse urine that is circulating in the air," says Elizabeth Matsui, M.D., a pediatric allergist at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center and lead author of the study. "This exposure increases their risk for developing allergic sensitivity to mice, just as it does for laboratory workers who constantly work with rodents."

Other common household allergens known to affect asthma include proteins shed by cockroaches, dust mites, furry pets and mold, along with tobacco smoke and certain chemicals. While previous studies have examined exposure to settled dust mouse allergen in inner-city homes, this is believed to be the first to describe airborne mouse allergen levels.

Once sensitized, such children exposed to airborne mouse allergen at the high levels found in the study may be more likely to experience asthma symptoms, including wheezing or difficulty breathing, which could lead to a full-blown asthma attack or other asthma-related illnesses, Matsui said. "Because asthma attacks have the potential to be life-threatening, these findings are of some concern," she adds.

The researchers report airborne mouse allergen was most likely to be found in homes with cracks and holes in walls or doors, exposed food in the kitchen, or evidence of mouse infestation, such as droppings. Although mouse allergen is most prevalent in inner-city homes, Matsui says previous stud
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Contact: Jessica Collins
jcolli31@jhmi.edu
410-516-4470
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
10-Feb-2005


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