Skin prick-test reactivity to aeroallergens and allergic symptoms in an urban population of central Italy: a longitudinal study

Author(s): Dottorini ML, Bruni B, Peccini F, Bottini P, Pini L, et al.


Background:Cross-sectional studies report an increasing prevalence of allergic diseases, such as rhinitis and asthma. Not thoroughly known, instead, is the natural history of allergic sensitization and the progress of the allergic disease-related symptoms.

Aim:The purpose of this study was to evaluate longitudinally the skin reactivity for the most common aeroallergens and the allergic symptoms in an urban population living in Perugia, a town of central Italy with a low-level of air pollution exposure.

Methods:In the 1998-1999 period 788 subjects were tested for skin reactivity to a panel of aeroallergens and underwent the administration of a questionnaire. These same subjects were part of a cohort of 1200 subjects who participated in a previous epidemiological study performed in 1984-1985 using the same tools. Subjects were aged between 14 and 64 years at the time of the first survey.

Results:In the present survey 196 subjects (24.9%) had skin reactivity to at least one aeroallergen, while in the previous survey 143 subjects (18.1%) had skin prick-test reactivity. The increase of the skin reactivity between the two observations was highly significant (P<0.001) and was mainly observed in subjects <40-years old. The greatest increment in skin reactivity was seen to Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus (house dust mite) allergen. Data obtained from questionnaires showed that subjects who declared allergic symptoms increased from 341 (43.3%) to 380 (48.2%). However, the increase was significant (P<0.01) only in subjects who had a positive association between allergic symptoms and prick-test reactivity and was greater for rhino-conjunctivitis than for asthma-related symptoms.

Conclusions:In a cohort of urban population of the centre of Italy, exposed to a low and stable level of air pollution, the sensitization to common aeroallergens increased with time, mostly in people <40-years of age. The greatest increment was found for indoor allergens such as Dermatophagoides pteronysimus. A significant increase in allergic symptoms, mainly related to rhino-conjunctivitis, was observed only in the presence of positive prick test.

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