Chronic caregiver stress and IgE expression, allergen-induced proliferation, and cytokine profiles in a birth cohort predisposed to atopy

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2004 Jun;113(6):1051-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2004.03.032.


Background: Psychologic stress modifies immune function and cytokine production.

Objective: We examined relationships between caregiver stress on the following markers of early childhood immune response: (1) IgE expression (n=215); (2) mitogen-induced and allergen-specific (Dermatophagoides farinae [Der f 1] and cockroach [Bla g 2]) proliferative response (n=114); and (3) subsequent cytokine expression (INF-gamma, TNF-alpha, IL-10, and IL-13) in a prospective birth cohort predisposed to atopy.

Methods: Caregiver stress was measured at 2-month intervals for the first 2 years of life and yearly thereafter by using the Perceived Stress Scale. A subsequent blood sample obtained from the children (median age, 2.1 years; range, 18-32 months) was analyzed for total serum IgE level and allergen-induced proliferation quantified as the stimulation index (SI; mean thymidine incorporation of the stimulated sample divided by that of the unstimulated sample). The relationship between stress and the proliferative response (SI >3 vs SI < or =3), and total IgE level (< or =100 IU/mL vs >100 IU/mL) was examined by using logistic regression. The relationship between cytokine levels and stress was analyzed by using linear regression.

Results: In adjusted analyses higher caregiver stress in the first 6 months after birth was associated with a Der f 1 SI of greater than 3 (odds ratio [OR], 1.5; 95% CI, 1.0-2.3) and nominally associated with a Bla g 2 SI of greater than 3 (OR, 1.13; 95% CI, 0.7-1.8). Higher stress between ages 6 and 18 months was associated with a high total IgE level (OR, 2.03; 95% CI, 1.1-3.6). Higher stress was significantly associated with increased production of TNF-alpha, with a suggested trend between higher stress and reduced INF-gamma production.

Conclusion: Increased stress in early childhood was associated with an atopic immune profile in these children predisposed to atopy-asthma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / immunology*
  • Antigens, Dermatophagoides / immunology
  • Antigens, Plant
  • Arthropod Proteins
  • Caregivers
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / etiology*
  • Immunoglobulin E / blood*
  • Infant
  • Interferon-gamma / biosynthesis
  • Logistic Models
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Male
  • Stress, Psychological / immunology*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / biosynthesis


  • Allergens
  • Antigens, Dermatophagoides
  • Antigens, Plant
  • Arthropod Proteins
  • Cytokines
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • allergen Bla g 1
  • Immunoglobulin E
  • Interferon-gamma
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases
  • Dermatophagoides farinae antigen f 1