medwireNews: Study data from Finland confirm that atopic disease increases the risk for both lower (LRTI) and upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) in working-age adults.
Furthermore, escalating levels of specific immunoglobulin (Ig)E antibodies to common aeroallergens were associated with increased occurrence of respiratory infections, suggesting a dose–response pattern with LRTIs.
Noting the high prevalence of atopic disease in the population, authors Maritta Jaakkola and team, from the University of Oulu in Finland say: “From the preventive and clinical point of view it is important to recognize that those with atopies are a risk group for respiratory infections, including more severe lower respiratory infections.”
Their study involved a randomized survey of 1008 adults aged 21 to 63 years, of whom 73.2% provided a serum sample for the measurement of IgE antibodies. Overall, 218 (21.6%) respondents reported allergic rhinitis, 344 (34.1%) allergic dermatitis, and 76 (7.5%) previous or current asthma.
Jaakkola and team found that participants with atopic disease were 50% more likely than those without atopic disease to have experienced a URTI in the past 12 months (risk ratio [RR]=1.55), and they were more than twice as likely to have experienced an LRTI (RR=2.24).
Asthma showed a particularly strong relationship with the risk for LRTIs, increasing the odds for infection 4.7-fold, while dermatitis was associated with a 1.8- and 1.6-fold increased odds for LRTI and URTI, respectively. However, allergic rhinitis was not significantly associated with either type of infection.
Increasing specific IgE, as measured by Phadiatop score, also appeared to be associated with the risk for respiratory infections, with a linear trend observed for LRTI. The authors also note that the risk for URTI was highest among those with a Phadiatop score of more than 4.
In particular, the combination of atopic disease and high specific IgE levels significantly increased the risk for LRTI, at a RR of 2.23, but was not significantly associated with the risk for URTI.
Writing in PLoS One, the team says that their findings support the hypothesis that allergies are linked to an increased susceptibility to infection, and add to their previous study results showing an association between recently experienced respiratory infections and adult-onset asthma.
“Relevant questions for the future are to study whether effective treatment of allergic diseases could prevent respiratory infections, and to consider if all those with atopic diseases should be subject to preventive measures, such as vaccinations,” they conclude.
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