Prenatal contact with inhalant allergens

Pediatr Res. 1997 Jan;41(1):128-31. doi: 10.1203/00006450-199701000-00020.


Pollen contact in early infancy may enhance the risk for subsequent pollen allergy. In this study likelihood of a prenatal antigen contact, as a result of inhalation of pollen allergens by the mother, was investigated. Due to the seasonal occurrence of allergens studied, the date of priming can be estimated, and this can supply data about the maturation of the fetal immune system. Proliferative responses of umbilical cord blood mononuclear cells (UCB MNCs) to the recombinant major allergens of birch (rBet v 1) and timothy grass (rPhl p 1) were analyzed throughout the whole year. A positive proliferative response was regarded as the criterion for a prenatal contact of the immune system with the allergen. Prenatal priming with both allergens was observed. Timothy grass pollen displayed considerably higher antigenicity than did birch pollen. The susceptibility of the fetal immune system to be primed by these allergens varies during the gestation period. The majority of positive responses to rPhl p 1 and rBet v 1 were found in UCB samples in which antigen contact (the respective pollen season) took place in the first 6 mo of pregnancy. Our results offer indirect evidence that, shortly after migration of T cell precursors to the epithelial thymus, T cells are mature enough for priming with antigens. No relationship was found between the susceptibility of the fetal immune system to be primed by these allergens and the clinical history of the family concerning type I allergy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / adverse effects*
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / cytology
  • Fetal Blood / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Immunization*
  • Immunoglobulin E / blood
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Monocytes / drug effects
  • Pollen*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Seasons
  • Time Factors


  • Allergens
  • Immunoglobulin E