Antenatal determinants of neonatal immune responses to allergens

Graham Stuart Devereux, Robert Norman Barker, Anthony Seaton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

227 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background The environmental factors responsible for recent increases in the prevalence of asthma and atopic disease have been assumed to act after birth. Their possible effects on fetal immune development in utero have not been investigated systematically, although sensitization to allergens may occur before birth.

Objective This prospective study determined whether the risk factors for asthma and atopic disease, namely family history of atopic disease, maternal smoking, birth order, or maternal dietary intake of antioxidant vitamins, exert antenatal effects on the fetal immune system that may predispose to childhood atopy.

Methods The T helper (Th) cell proliferative responses of cord blood mononuclear cells (CBMC) from a sample of 223 neonates, representative of children born to a cohort of 2000 pregnant women, were measured and related to family, maternal and environmental factors associated with the pregnancy.

Results The magnitude of CBMC-proliferative responses to allergens increased significantly in association with a family history of atopic disease or maternal smoking, and decreased significantly with increasing birth order and high maternal dietary intake of vitamin E. The epidemiological association between birth order and atopy may therefore be a consequence of antenatal influences rather than of protective effects of childhood infections. The association between maternal intake of vitamin E and CBMC responsiveness suggests that diet during pregnancy may influence the fetal immune system in such a way as to modulate the risk of childhood atopy.

Conclusion These results provide a new insight into the aetiology of atopic disease by demonstrating that the maternal environmental risk factors for atopy, diet, birth order and smoking, influence the development of the fetal immune system. This raises the prospect of preventative public health interventions during pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-50
Number of pages7
JournalClinical & experimental allergy
Volume32
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2002

Keywords

  • atopy
  • T helper cells
  • antenatal influences
  • smoking
  • birth order
  • vitamin E
  • CELL PROLIFERATIVE RESPONSES
  • UMBILICAL-CORD BLOOD
  • HOUSE-DUST-MITE
  • RESPIRATORY SYMPTOMS
  • ABERDEEN SCHOOLCHILDREN
  • ASTHMA
  • ATOPY
  • GAMMA
  • LIFE
  • RESPONSIVENESS

Cite this

Antenatal determinants of neonatal immune responses to allergens. / Devereux, Graham Stuart; Barker, Robert Norman; Seaton, Anthony.

In: Clinical & experimental allergy, Vol. 32, No. 1, 01.2002, p. 43-50.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Devereux, Graham Stuart ; Barker, Robert Norman ; Seaton, Anthony. / Antenatal determinants of neonatal immune responses to allergens. In: Clinical & experimental allergy. 2002 ; Vol. 32, No. 1. pp. 43-50.
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AB - Background The environmental factors responsible for recent increases in the prevalence of asthma and atopic disease have been assumed to act after birth. Their possible effects on fetal immune development in utero have not been investigated systematically, although sensitization to allergens may occur before birth.Objective This prospective study determined whether the risk factors for asthma and atopic disease, namely family history of atopic disease, maternal smoking, birth order, or maternal dietary intake of antioxidant vitamins, exert antenatal effects on the fetal immune system that may predispose to childhood atopy.Methods The T helper (Th) cell proliferative responses of cord blood mononuclear cells (CBMC) from a sample of 223 neonates, representative of children born to a cohort of 2000 pregnant women, were measured and related to family, maternal and environmental factors associated with the pregnancy.Results The magnitude of CBMC-proliferative responses to allergens increased significantly in association with a family history of atopic disease or maternal smoking, and decreased significantly with increasing birth order and high maternal dietary intake of vitamin E. The epidemiological association between birth order and atopy may therefore be a consequence of antenatal influences rather than of protective effects of childhood infections. The association between maternal intake of vitamin E and CBMC responsiveness suggests that diet during pregnancy may influence the fetal immune system in such a way as to modulate the risk of childhood atopy.Conclusion These results provide a new insight into the aetiology of atopic disease by demonstrating that the maternal environmental risk factors for atopy, diet, birth order and smoking, influence the development of the fetal immune system. This raises the prospect of preventative public health interventions during pregnancy.

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