Effect of Early-Life Geohelminth Infections on the Development of Wheezing at 5 Years of Age

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Rationale:Exposures to geohelminths during gestation or early childhood may reduce risk of wheezing illness/asthma and atopy during childhood in tropical regions.Objectives:To investigate the effect of maternal and early childhood geohelminths on development of wheeze/asthma and atopy during the first 5 years of life.Methods:A cohort of 2,404 neonates was followed to 5 years of age in a rural district in coastal Ecuador. Data on wheeze were collected by questionnaire and atopy was measured by allergen skin prick test reactivity to 10 allergens at 5 years. Stool samples from mothers and children were examined for geohelminths by microscopy.Measurements and Main Results:A total of 2,090 (86.9%) children were evaluated at 5 years. Geohelminths were observed in 45.5% of mothers and in 34.1% of children by 3 years. Wheeze and asthma were reported for 12.6% and 5.7% of children, respectively, whereas 14.0% had skin test reactivity at 5 years. Maternal geohelminths were associated with an increased risk of wheeze (adjusted odds ratio, 1.41; 95% confidence interval, 1.06-1.88), whereas childhood geohelminths over the first 3 years of life were associated with reduced risk of wheeze (adjusted odds ratio, 0.70; 95% confidence interval, 0.52-0.96) and asthma (adjusted odds ratio, 0.60; 95% confidence interval, 0.38-0.94) but not skin prick test reactivity. The effects on wheeze/asthma were greatest with later age of first infection, were observed only in skin test-negative children, but were not associated with parasite burden or specific geohelminths.Conclusions:Although maternal exposures to geohelminths may increase childhood wheeze, childhood geohelminths during the first 3 years may provide protection through a nonallergic mechanism.Registered as an observational study (ISRCTN41239086).

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