The clinical characteristics of respiratory allergy in immigrants in northern Italy

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


Background: 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.

Methods: 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.

Results: 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.

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Asthma / diagnosis
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Asthma / etiology
  • Asthma / physiopathology
  • Emigrants and Immigrants*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Respiratory Hypersensitivity / diagnosis
  • Respiratory Hypersensitivity / epidemiology*
  • Respiratory Hypersensitivity / etiology
  • Respiratory Hypersensitivity / physiopathology*
  • Rhinitis / diagnosis
  • Rhinitis / epidemiology*
  • Rhinitis / etiology
  • Rhinitis / physiopathology
  • Severity of Illness Index