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Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 1997 Nov;156(5):1394-8.

HLA class II genes in soybean epidemic asthma patients.

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Environmental and Respiratory Health Research Unit, Institut Municipal d'Investigació Mèdica, Barcelona, Spain.


From 1981 to 1987, 26 outbreaks of asthma caused by the inhalation of soybean dust, affecting a total of 688 individuals, were detected in Barcelona, Spain. Because only a small proportion of asthmatic individuals living in Barcelona expressed the epidemic phenotype, it is hypothesized that a genetically determined human leukocyte antigen (HLA) Class II factor could have played a role in the susceptible individuals. Accordingly, we studied the distribution of both HLA-DR and HLA-DQ in soybean epidemic asthmatic patients. An analysis of the HLA-DR and HLA-DQ genes for genetic polymorphisms of the beta 1 chain was done with the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in 78 soybean epidemic asthma patients, and the findings were compared with those for 67 nonepidemic asthmatic individuals and 168 individuals from the general population. An allelic disequilibrium could be established; the risk of epidemic asthma was particularly associated with the DRB1*13 gene (p value corrected for multiple comparisons < 0.02). The association observed for the DRB1*13 gene was stronger in individuals in the lowest tertile for total IgE, with an estimated risk with a 95% confidence interval (CI), of 14.5 (1.6 to 130.8). The combination of two genes from among the DRB1*05-05, DRB1*05-06, and DRB1*06-06 genes was present in epidemic asthmatic subjects only. No association with an HLA-DQB1 allele could be observed. Genetic predisposition could contribute to the response of some asthmatic patients to exposure to soybean dust, having led to their being affected during the epidemics of asthma in Barcelona.

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