Immunologic features of infants with milk or egg allergy enrolled in an observational study (Consortium of Food Allergy Research) of food allergy.
BACKGROUND: Immune features of infants with food allergy have not been delineated.
OBJECTIVES: We sought to explore the basic mechanisms responsible for food allergy and identify biomarkers, such as skin prick test (SPT) responses, food-specific IgE levels, and mononuclear cell responses, in a cohort of infants with likely milk/egg allergy at increased risk of peanut allergy.
METHODS: Infants aged 3 to 15 months were enrolled with a positive SPT response to milk or egg and either a corresponding convincing clinical history of allergy to milk or egg or moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis. Infants with known peanut allergy were excluded.
RESULTS: Overall, 512 infants (67% male) were studied, with 308 (60%) having a history of a clinical reaction. Skin test responses, detectable food-specific IgE, or both revealed sensitization as follows: milk, 78%; egg, 89%; and peanut, 69%. SPT responses and food-specific IgE levels were discrepant for peanut (15% for IgE > or = 0.35 kU(A)/L and negative SPT response vs 8% for positive SPT response and IgE <0.35 kU(A)/L, P = .001). Mononuclear cell allergen stimulation screening for CD25, cytokine-inducible SH2-containing protein (CISH), forkhead box protein 3 (FOXP3), GATA3, IL10, IL4, IFNG, and T-box transcription factor (TBET) expression by using casein, egg white, and peanut revealed that only allergen-induced IL4 expression was significantly increased in those with clinical allergy to milk (compared with nonallergic subjects) and in those sensitized to peanut, despite the absence of an increase in GATA3 mRNA expression.
CONCLUSIONS: Infants with likely milk/egg allergy are at considerably high risk of having increased peanut-specific IgE levels (potential allergy). Peanut-specific serum IgE levels were a more sensitive indicator of sensitization than SPT responses. Allergen-specific IL4 expression might be a marker of allergic risk. Absence of an increase in GATA3 mRNA expression suggests that allergen-specific IL-4 might not be of T-cell origin.