Background: Even though atopic sensitization has been shown to be strongly associated with childhood asthma, asthma eventually develops in only one third of atopic children.
Objective: The aim of this study was to prospectively investigate the pattern of atopic sensitization typically associated with the development of asthma in childhood.
Methods: The German Multicenter Allergy Study followed 1314 children from birth to the age of 7 years. Parental questionnaires on asthma and asthmatic symptoms were completed 6 times up to the age of 2 years and from then on yearly. Determination of specific IgE to 9 food and inhalant allergens was performed yearly, and at the age of 7 years, a bronchial histamine challenge was conducted.
Results: Onset of atopic sensitization in atopic children with current asthma at the age of 7 years was significantly earlier than in atopic children without current asthma (39.4% before age 1 year vs 21.0%, P =.015). Early atopic sensitization without any sensitization to inhalant allergens at the age of 7 years conferred no increased risk for asthma at this age. Only those children sensitized to any allergen early in life and sensitized to inhalant allergens by the age of 7 years were at a significantly increased risk of being asthmatic at this age (odds ratio, 10.12; 95% CI, 3.81-26.88). However, even in this group of persistently sensitized children, the risk of being asthmatic at the age of 7 years was only increased if a positive parental history of asthma or atopy was present (odds ratio, 15.56; 95% CI, 5.78-41.83), with the effect being strongest for maternal asthma.
Conclusion: Our results indicate that an underlying factor pertaining to asthma and maternal transmission may determine both a certain pattern of sensitization and the expression of asthma.