Background: Raised peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) proliferative responses to food allergens have been demonstrated in children with established atopic dermatitis.
Objective: In this report we investigate the PBMC proliferative responses to inhalant and food allergens from babies at birth, 6 months and 1 year of age, born to atopic and non-atopic parents.
Methods: PBMCs, separated by density gradient centrifugation, were cultured for 6 days with autologous plasma and a range of allergens (house dust mite [HDM], cat, grass pollen, tree pollen, betalactoglobulin and ovalbumin). Proliferative responses were measured by the uptake of [3H] thymidine added for the final 18 h of culture.
Results: At birth, infants born to atopic parents who developed allergic disease by 1 year of age had significantly more positive responses (stimulation index > or = 2 with a value of > or = 1000 cpm above background) to HDM (P = 0.0097), betalactoglobulin (P = 0.0166) and ovalbumin (P = 0.0035) than newborns who did not develop allergy. Infants who developed allergy also had significantly more positive responses to HDM (P = 0.03) and ovalbumin (P = 0.0057) than babies, born to non-atopic parents, who did not develop allergies. At 6 months of age a significant fall in response to HDM (P = 0.003) and cat fur extract (P = 0.006) was seen in infants who developed allergic disease by 1 year of age. A similar pattern was seen for proliferative responses to betalactoglobulin and ovalbumin (P = 0.0006, P = 0.004). Conversely, proliferations to grass and tree pollen extracts increased at 6 months (P = 0.04, P = NS) and 1 year (P = NS, P = 0.01) compared with birth which was significant for infants who did not develop allergic disease.
Conclusion: Proliferative responses to seasonal allergens increased over the first year of life whilst those to perennial allergens, both inhalant and food, fell. This suggests either the induction of a systemic immune tolerance by perennial exposure to antigens or movement of sensitized cells to target organs where allergen exposure occurs. This process may be independent of the development allergic disease.