Background: General population studies have shown a relationship between total serum IgE levels and airway responsiveness, but this association has not been documented in patients with asthma.
Objective: The study assesses the cross-sectional relationship between IgE levels and airway responsiveness in 208 subjects who had had emergency department treatment for asthma at least 2 years earlier.
Methods: All participants completed a standardized respiratory questionnaire and underwent spirometry, allergy skin testing, and a dose-response methacholine challenge test.
Results: After adjusting for age and gender, the percentage of patients with asthma and airway responsiveness (provocative concentration causing a 20% fall in forced expiratory volume in 1 second [PC20] < or = 8 mg/ml) increased from 52% in the lower quintile of IgE to 72% in the upper quintile (p < 0.01). After adjusting for age, gender, baseline percent predicted forced expiratory volume in 1 second, and smoking, the association between IgE (both in quintiles and continuous) and PC20 appeared consistent and statistically significant (p < 0.01). This association was stronger in patients who were not given inhaled steroid (odds ratio for twice the concentration of IgE, 1.42; 95% confidence interval, 1.09 and 1.84), than in patients treated with inhaled steroid (odds ratio, 1.10; 95% confidence interval, 0.82 and 1.50). Eosinophilia and skin reactivity were associated with PC20 although to a lesser extent.
Conclusion: These findings strengthen the role played by IgE in facilitating the development of bronchial responsiveness in patients with asthma.