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11-11-2009 | Respiratory | Article

Maternal trauma linked to allergy risk in children


Free abstract

MedWire News: Maternal levels of lifetime interpersonal trauma (IPT) are associated with cord blood total immunoglobulin (Ig)E levels in urban newborns, researchers have found.

The findings, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, suggest that maternal lifetime stress levels may influence the development of asthma and allergies in children.

Michelle Sternthal (Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA) and team studied associations between maternal IPT and cord blood total IgE levels in 478 infants born in metropolitan Boston.

The infants’ mothers completed the Revised Conflict Tactics Scale to assess levels of trauma during childhood, adolescence, adulthood before the current pregnancy, and during the current pregnancy. Cord blood IgE levels were measured using fluoroenzyme immunoassay.

In total, 107 mothers were exposed to early trauma in childhood and/or teenage years only, 29 were exposed to late trauma in adulthood and/or during the index pregnancy only, 57 were exposed to chronic trauma in childhood and adulthood, and 285 were not exposed to trauma during any life stage.

Initial analysis revealed that early and chronic maternal IPT were independently associated with increased cord blood IgE levels, at odds ratios (ORs) of 1.78 and 2.25, respectively.

After adjustment for factors such as maternal age, race, season of birth, the child's gender, and socioeconomic status, the influence of early trauma on cord blood IgE levels became nonsignificant, at an OR of 1.48.

However, the influence of chronic trauma exposure on cord blood IgE levels remained significant after adjustment, at an OR of 2.18.

Sternthal and team conclude: “These data link chronic trauma over the mother's life course with increased IgE levels in infants at birth.”

They add that the findings “provide the first suggestion that maternal experiences of IPT might have transgenerational implications for asthma and allergy risk.”

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2009

By Mark Cowen

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