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Molecular spreading and predictive value of preclinical IgE response to Phleum pratense in children with hay fever

      Background

      IgE sensitization against grass pollen is a cause of seasonal allergic rhinitis.

      Objective

      We sought to investigate the evolution at the molecular level and the preclinical predictive value of IgE responses against grass pollen.

      Methods

      The German Multicentre Allergy Study examined a birth cohort born in 1990. A questionnaire was administered yearly, and blood samples were collected at 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 10, and 13 years of age. Grass pollen–related seasonal allergic rhinitis (SARg) was diagnosed according to nasal symptoms in June/July. Serum IgE antibodies to Phleum pratense extract and 8 P pratense molecules were tested with immune-enzymatic singleplex and multiplex assays, respectively.

      Results

      One hundred seventy-seven of the 820 examined children had SARg. A weak monomolecular/oligomolecular IgE response to P pratense was observed very frequently before SARg onset. These initial IgE responses increased in concentration and molecular complexity during the preclinical and clinical process. A typical progression of IgE sensitization was observed: Phl p 1 (initiator in >75% of cases); then Phl p 4 and Phl p 5; then Phl p 2, Phl p 6, and Phl p 11; and then Phl p 12 and Phl p 7. At age 3 years, IgE sensitization predicted SARg by age 12 years (positive predictive value, 68% [95% CI, 50% to 82%]; negative predictive value, 84% [95% CI, 80% to 87%]). At this preclinical prediction time, the number of recognized molecules and the serum levels of IgE to P pratense were significantly lower than at 3 or more years after SARg onset.

      Conclusions

      The IgE response against grass pollen molecules can start years before disease onset as a weak monosensitization or oligosensitization phenomenon. It can increase in serum concentration and complexity through a “molecular spreading” process during preclinical and early clinical disease stages. Testing IgE sensitization at a preclinical stage facilitates prediction of seasonal allergic rhinitis at its molecular monosensitization or oligosensitization stage.

      Key words

      Abbreviations used:

      ISAC (Immuno Solid-phase Allergen Chip), ISU (ISAC Standard Unit), MAS (Multicentre Allergy Study), SARg (Grass pollen–related seasonal allergic rhinitis), SIT (Allergen-specific immunotherapy)
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