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Pediatr Res. 2000 Sep;48(3):404-7.

Direct evidence for transplacental allergen transfer.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Vienna, Austria.


Allergies are increasing, and despite deeper insights into the immunologic basis of these diseases, preventive measures are not yet efficient. As the induction of allergic diseases is often triggered in early childhood, perinatal or prenatal preventive strategies would be beneficial. We investigated the transfer of inhalant and nutritive allergens across the human placenta. For this purpose, the maternal side of a placental cotyledon was perfused in vitro with an allergen-containing medium, and a specific ELISA was used to detect the allergens on the fetal side. Both allergens evaluated, birch pollen major allergen Bet v1 and the milk allergen beta-lactoglobulin, could be shown to cross the placenta. The nutritive allergen beta-lactoglobulin was not only transferred across the placenta in all eight experiments, but was also detectable within the first minutes of perfusion. The peak allergen concentration on the fetal side could be increased by addition of human immunoglobulin. For the inhalant allergen Bet v1, transfer was observed in two of 10 placental experiments, and only if human immunoglobulin was added. A pulsatility wave with a frequency of 30-35 min suggested an active transfer mechanism. We conclude that allergens are actively and selectively transferred across the placenta. Therefore, controlled maternal allergen exposure might offer new ways to induce tolerance to specific allergens in the fetus.

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