Study finds indoor allergen levels vary, cockroach allergens cause more asthma symptoms

DALLAS March 8, 2005 Cockroach allergens exacerbate the symptoms of asthmatic children living in inner cities more so than dust mite or pet allergens and amounts of cockroach allergens varies widely in cities across the country, according to a UT Southwestern Medical Center researcher involved in a multicenter study.

The National Institutes of Health study, which appears in the March issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, evaluates the relationships among allergen exposure, sensitivity and asthma morbidity in inner-city children. It is the first study to compare allergen levels and exposure on such a geographically large scale in an inner-city population.

"It is known that cockroach allergens play a very important role in exacerbating asthma symptoms in inner-city children who are sensitive and exposed to high levels of that allergen," said Dr. Rebecca Gruchalla, chief of allergy at UT Southwestern and the study's lead author. "Our study has expanded this finding by demonstrating that cockroach allergen levels vary dramatically across the country and that there are marked geographic differences in both allergen exposure and skin test reactivity in this group of children."

Asthma, a chronic lung disease, affects about 20 million Americans. Inner-city children suffer disproportionately from the disease, and exposure to high levels of multiple indoor allergens and tobacco smoke is a contributing factor.

Researchers followed more than 900 children aged 5 to 11 with moderate to severe asthma who live in inner-city areas in the Bronx, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, New York City, Seattle and Tucson, Ariz.

Children with moderate or severe allergies to cockroaches were found to have more asthma symptoms, miss more school days and have more unscheduled asthma-related doctor visits than children who were sensitive to other indoor allergens. Exposure to dust mite allergens was not found to exacerbate asthma symptoms. Exposure to

Contact: Staishy Bostick Siem
UT Southwestern Medical Center

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