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Thorax. 2000 May;55(5):424-31.

Is allergen exposure the major primary cause of asthma?

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  • 1Wellington Asthma Research Group, Wellington School of Medicine, PO Box 7343, Wellington, New Zealand.


In recent decades a number of authors have argued that allergen exposure is the major primary cause of asthma, and that the global increases in asthma prevalence are due to increases in exposure to aeroallergens. We have assessed the epidemiological evidence in support of this hypothesis. No longitudinal studies were identified in which allergen exposure during infancy in a random population sample has been related to asthma risk after the age of six years. Two studies have been conducted in selected populations chosen on the basis of a family history of asthma or allergy; one study found a non-statistically significant association whereas the other study found no association. Many of the identified prevalence studies in children showed negative associations between allergen exposure and current asthma, and the weighted averages of the population attributable risks in children were 4% for Der p 1, 11% for Fel d 1, -4% for Bla g 2, and 6% for Can f 1. There was little change in these estimates in studies in which children whose parents had adopted allergen avoidance measures were excluded. Furthermore, evidence from population studies is equivocal and provides little consistent evidence that allergen exposure is associated with the prevalence of asthma at the population level. Population-based cohort studies are clearly required, but currently available evidence does not indicate that allergen exposure is a major risk factor for the primary causation of asthma in children.

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  • ACP J Club. 2001 Jan-Feb;134(1):32.
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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