Background: The role of genetics in the etiology of peanut allergy is unknown. For complex genetic traits, twin studies can provide information on the relative contribution of genetic factors to a disease, as the relative confounding effects of environmental factors are markedly decreased.
Objective: This study was performed to search for evidence that genetic factors influence peanut allergy by comparing the concordance rate for this allergy among monozygotic and dizygotic twins.
Methods: Twin pairs with at least one member with peanut allergy were ascertained through the Food Allergy Network by advertisements in the organization's newsletters and Web site. Individuals with peanut allergy or parental surrogates were interviewed by telephone. A full atopic history was obtained, and peanut allergy and zygosity were determined using previously validated questionnaires. Heritability of peanut allergy was determined using univariate genetic model fitting by maximum likelihood with the Mx statistical modeling software package.
Results: Seventy-five twin pairs were recruited. Seventeen pairs were excluded because of unconvincing peanut allergy histories (9 pairs, including 4 of uncertain zygosity) or because one twin had reportedly never ingested peanut (8 pairs). The median age of the 58 remaining twin pairs was 5 years (range 1 to 58 years). Seventy individuals had peanut allergy. In addition to convincing histories of peanut allergy, 52 (74%) had been tested (skin prick testing with or without radioallergosorbent assay) and all had positive reactions to peanut. Twenty-nine of the 70 had experienced >1 reaction to peanut; 29 of 70 had multisystem reactions. Among the monozygotic pairs (n = 14), 9 were concordant for peanut allergy (pairwise concordance, 64.3%) and among dizygotic pairs (n = 44), 3 were concordant for peanut allergy (pairwise concordance, 6.8%; chi(2) = 21.38, P <.0001). Heritability of peanut allergy was estimated at 81. 6% (95% confidence interval 41.6% to 99.7%) with model fitting using a population prevalence of peanut allergy of 0.4%.
Conclusions: The significantly higher concordance rate of peanut allergy among monozygotic twins suggests strongly that there is a significant genetic influence on peanut allergy.