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16-08-2012 | Genetics | Article

Allergy transmission may be gender specific


Free abstract

MedWire News: Parents with allergies are more likely to pass them on to their same gender children than to children of the opposite gender, say researchers.

Hasan Arshad (University of Southampton, UK) and colleagues found that women with eczema or asthma were more likely to pass these conditions on to their daughters than sons. Conversely, men with eczema or asthma were more likely to pass them on to their sons than daughters.

Previous studies have suggested that a "parent-of-origin" effect may exist for allergies such as eczema and asthma.

To investigate further, Arshad and team analysed data on 1456 young people from the Isle of Wight Birth Cohort. The cohort began in 1989 with follow-up data available from the children at 1, 2, 4, 10, and 18 years of age.

The researchers used validated questionnaires to obtain information on asthma, eczema, rhinitis, and environmental factors. The children had skin prick tests at the age of 4, 10, and 18 years, and immunoglobulin (Ig)E measurements taken at 10 and 18 years. Parental allergy history and maternal total IgE levels were recorded shortly after birth.

As reported in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, when stratified by the child's gender, maternal asthma increased the risk for asthma in girls by a significant 91%, whereas only a slight nonsignificant increase in risk was seen in boys. Similarly, maternal eczema increased the risk for eczema in girls by a significant 92%, but no increase in risk was seen in boys.

A similar trend was seen for paternal allergies, with paternal asthma increasing the risk in boys by a significant 1.99-fold, but not in girls; and paternal eczema increasing the risk a significant 2.07-fold in boys alone.

Notably, a similar parent-of-origin effect was observed for general atopy during childhood and for total IgE levels at age 10 and 18 years.

"More studies focusing on transgenerational epigenetic programming are needed to critically appraise the differential effect of parental atopy, its origin in (epi)genetics, and the influence of the maternal environment," conclude the authors.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Helen Albert, Senior MedWire Reporter

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