It has been suggested that early childhood exposure to microbial agents decreases the risk of allergies in children. The current authors studied the association between microbial agents in house dust and allergic sensitisation in children aged 2–4 yrs.
Nested case-control studies were performed within ongoing birth cohort studies in Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden and ∼180 sensitised and 180 nonsensitised children were selected per country. Levels of bacterial endotoxin, β(1,3)-glucans and fungal extracellular polysaccharides (EPS) were measured in dust samples from the children’s mattresses and the living-room floors.
Combined across countries, higher amounts of mattress dust and higher mattress dust loads of endotoxin, β(1,3)-glucans and EPS were associated with a significantly decreased risk of sensitisation to inhalant allergens. After mutual adjustment, only the protective effect of the amount of mattress dust remained significant (odds ratio (95% confidence interval) 0.57(0.39–0.84)).
Higher amounts of mattress dust may decrease the risk of allergic sensitisation to inhalant allergens. The effect might be partly attributable to endotoxin, β(1,3)-glucans and extracellular polysaccharides, but could also reflect (additional) protective effects of (microbial) agents other than the ones measured. It is not possible to distinguish with certainty which component relates to the effect, since their levels are highly correlated.
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