Background: Environmental exposures in early life appear to play an important role in the pathogenesis of childhood asthma, but the potentially modifiable exposures that lead to asthma remain uncertain.
Objective: We sought to identify early-life environmental risk factors for childhood asthma in a birth cohort of high-risk inner-city children.
Methods: We examined the relationship of prenatal and early-life environmental factors to the occurrence of asthma at 7 years of age among 442 children.
Results: Higher house dust concentrations of cockroach, mouse, and cat allergens in the first 3 years of life were associated with lower risk of asthma (for cockroach allergen: odds ratio per interquartile range increase in concentration, 0.55; 95% CI, 0.36-0.86; P < .01). House dust microbiome analysis using 16S ribosomal RNA sequencing identified 202 and 171 bacterial taxa that were significantly (false discovery rate < 0.05) more or less abundant, respectively, in the homes of children with asthma. A majority of these bacteria were significantly correlated with 1 of more allergen concentrations. Other factors associated significantly positively with asthma included umbilical cord plasma cotinine concentration (odds ratio per geometric SD increase in concentration, 1.76; 95% CI, 1.00-3.09; P = .048) and maternal stress and depression scores.
Conclusion: Among high-risk inner-city children, higher indoor levels of pet or pest allergens in infancy were associated with lower risk of asthma. The abundance of a number of bacterial taxa in house dust was associated with increased or decreased asthma risk. Prenatal tobacco smoke exposure and higher maternal stress and depression scores in early life were associated with increased asthma risk.
Keywords: Asthma; allergen; allergy; depression; environment; microbiome; smoking; stress.
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