BACKGROUND: Data on incidence and long-term persistence of IgE aeroallergen sensitization in older adults are limited. Alcohol consumption is a strong immune-modulator with a significant impact on the IgE response.
OBJECTIVES: We aimed to assess the incidence and remission of aeroallergen sensitization from the age of 40 to 60 years. Furthermore, we examined the relationship of alcohol consumption to the prevalence and incidence of aeroallergen sensitization.
METHODS: In 1976-1977, a total of 1,200 people born in 1936 and randomly selected from the general population were invited for a health examination (1,052 were examined). At 60 years, they were invited for a re-examination (695 were examined). Stored serum samples from both examinations were analyzed consecutively for serum-specific IgE to aeroallergens by using a qualitative multi-allergen immunoassay.
RESULTS: We observed a total of 32 (7.1% of those not sensitized at 40 years) incident cases and 35 (41.1% of those sensitized at 40 years) remittent cases of aeroallergen sensitization over this 20 year period. Persistent as well as incident sensitization was significantly associated with self-reported atopic disease at 60 years. Alcohol consumption (>14 drinks per week) at 40 years was significantly associated with a higher prevalence of sensitization at 40 years, but not with the incidence of sensitization.
CONCLUSIONS: In older adults, aeroallergen sensitization as reflected by serum-specific IgE positivity to aeroallergens is a dynamic process. Both persistent and incident sensitization was associated with atopic disease. Further studies are needed to clarify the influence of alcohol on the allergen-specific IgE response.