Elder siblings enhance the effect of filaggrin mutations on childhood eczema: results from the 2 birth cohort studies LISAplus and GINIplus

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2010 Jun;125(6):1254-1260.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2010.03.036.


Background: Several studies showed a protective effect of elder siblings on eczema development, which is in line with the hygiene hypothesis. However, findings are not consistent, and there might exist different causal pathways for the development of eczema. Especially barrier disturbances as found in children with mutations in the filaggrin gene (FLG) seem to play an important role.

Objectives: To investigate the interaction between FLG mutations and the presence of elder siblings on the development of eczema in 2 independent birth cohorts.

Methods: We used data from 2 German birth cohorts (LISAplus, GINIplus) up to the age of 6 years. Genotyping for FLG mutations (R501X, 2282del4) was performed in 1039 (LISAplus) and 1828 (GINIplus) children. Data on eczema (diagnosis and symptoms) and elder siblings were obtained by parental questionnaires. The association among eczema, FLG mutations, and elder siblings was analyzed longitudinally by using generalized estimating equations.

Results: We found no protective effect of elder siblings on eczema development. On the contrary, children with FLG mutations had a significantly higher risk for eczema if they had elder siblings. Attending day care centers lessened this effect. After excluding 303 children who attended early day care, the odds ratio for interaction between FLG mutations and elder siblings was 3.27 (95% CI, 1.14-9.36) in LISAplus and 2.41 (95% CI, 1.06-5.48) in GINIplus.

Conclusion: Our findings did not confirm a protective sibling effect. The prevalence of eczema in children with filaggrin deficiency was higher if elder siblings were present. Our results give evidence for complex skin-driven pathogenic mechanisms that might be different depending on children's genetic backgrounds.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / epidemiology
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / genetics*
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / immunology
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Filaggrin Proteins
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Genotype
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / genetics*
  • Male
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Parity
  • Pregnancy
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Siblings*


  • FLG protein, human
  • Filaggrin Proteins
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins