Background: An association between childhood asthma and IgE sensitization has been established, but our understanding of the genetic and environmental contribution to it is incomplete. Our aim was to estimate the associations and dose-response relationship between asthma and sensitization to airborne allergens in Swedish 9- to 14-year-old twins. Additionally, we aimed to explore the importance of familial confounding from shared genes and environment using co-twin controls.
Methods: In the STOPPA cohort, 752 same-sex twin children were screened with Phadiatop® (Thermo Fisher Scientific; Pharmacia, Uppsala, Sweden); if positive further analysis of IgE antibodies to airborne allergens of pets (cat, horse, dog), pollens (birch, timothy, mugwort), mites, and mold were performed. The associations between asthma and airborne allergens were assessed with generalized estimating equations. The co-twin control analysis was performed by conditional logistic regression.
Results: Children with positive Phadiatop® had more than doubled odds of asthma (OR 2.53, 95% CI [1.74, 3.70]). Sensitization to pet allergens was associated with increased odds of asthma; for example, cat OR 4.15 (95% CI [2.67, 6.45]), with similar estimates for pollens; for example, birch OR 3.22 (95% CI [2.12, 4.91]). Associations persisted with sensitization as a categorical variable and for trend, indicating a dose-response relationship. Results remained in the co-twin analyses; for example, cat OR 4.75 (95% CI [1.62, 14.0]) and birch OR 5.00 (95% CI [1.45, 17.3]).
Conclusion: The association between childhood asthma and sensitization to airborne allergens remains in co-twin analyses, indicating they are not due to confounding from shared environmental or genetic factors.