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Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 2008;147(3):231-4. doi: 10.1159/000142046. Epub 2008 Jul 2.

The clinical characteristics of respiratory allergy in immigrants in northern Italy.

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Allergy Unit, Department of Internal Medicine, Sant'Orsola Hospital, Brescia, Italy.



Respiratory allergy is influenced and determined by genetic and environmental factors. Migration is a good epidemiological model to indirectly assess the influence of the environment. We assessed the clinical characteristics of respiratory allergy in immigrants in Brescia, Italy.


We prospectively collected the data of all immigrants referred to our allergy service for respiratory complaints since 1992. All patients underwent a standard diagnostic workup. The records of a matched Italian population of 1,534 patients were examined for comparison.


Two hundred and thirty-seven patients were evaluated (108 male, mean age 36.3 years). Their countries of origin were uniformly distributed among 4 macroareas (Asia, Africa, South America, Eastern Europe). All patients were referred less than 1 month after the onset of symptoms. Family history for atopy was positive in 9% and clinical history of respiratory allergy was positive in 2%. The mean time of onset of symptoms after immigration was 5.21 years, and the onset symptoms were rhinitis and asthma in 68% patients. Twenty-five percent were monosensitized subjects and 20% of patients had cockroach positivity. Some characteristics (family history, previous clinical history and severity of rhinitis) were clearly different from those of the Italian control population.


In this population of immigrants, it seems that environmental factors, more than genetic ones, play a role in the onset of respiratory allergy.

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