Asian Scientist (Feb. 12, 2014) – The first comprehensive adult allergy cohort study in Singapore has identified exposure to house dust mites as the primary cause of respiratory allergies in Singapore.
The findings, published in the journal Allergy, carry potential implications in the management of asthma and allergic rhinitis in tropical urban environments.
It is estimated that approximately 300 million people suffer from asthma worldwide and even more are affected by allergic rhinitis. Both conditions are now increasingly common in Southeast Asian populations. The new study revealed that close to 15% of Singapore’s adult population are being affected by asthma and nearly 40% are troubled by allergic rhinitis.
The research team conducted a large scale cohort study with approximately 8,000 participants. In the study, reactivity to a panel of 12 common allergens was evaluated by a skin prick test or by measuring the level of allergy-associated Immunoglobulin E (IgE). IgE is a class of antibodies that is raised upon reaction to an allergen.
The findings showed that approximately 80% of those surveyed were reactive to house dust mites, and had no significant reactivity to any other allergen.
The study further found that participants who originate from non-tropical countries had low sensitization rates for house dust mites when they first arrived in Singapore, but these rates increased as they spend more time here. This increase was accompanied by an increase in airway allergies.
Migrants from countries that have similar tropical climate, such as Malaysia, showed comparable rates as Singaporeans, pointing again to house dust mites as primary environmental cause.
The results suggest that changes in lifestyle resulting in more time spent indoors increase our exposure to high loads of house dust mite allergens, which translates into a dominant cause of respiratory allergic diseases in Southeast Asia.
According to the researchers, the findings may lead to the development of more effective allergen-specific desensitization strategies as well as environmental interventions aimed at the reduction of the house dust mite-load.
Source: A*STAR; Image: Gilles San Martin/Flickr/CC.
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