Gun Violence, African Ancestry, and Asthma: A Case-Control Study in Puerto Rican Children

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Exposure to gun violence and African ancestry have been separately associated with increased risk of asthma in Puerto Rican children.


The objective of this study was to examine whether African ancestry and gun violence interact on asthma and total IgE in school-aged Puerto Rican children.


This is a case-control study of 747 Puerto Rican children aged 9 to 14 years living in San Juan, Puerto Rico (n = 472), and Hartford, Connecticut (n = 275). Exposure to gun violence was defined as the child’s report of hearing gunshots more than once, and the percentage of African ancestry was estimated using genome-wide genotypic data. Asthma was defined as parental report of physician-diagnosed asthma and wheeze in the previous year. Serum total IgE (IU/mL) was measured in study participants. Multivariate logistic and linear regressions were used for the analysis of asthma and total IgE, respectively.


In multivariate analyses, there was a significant interaction between exposure to gun violence and African ancestry on asthma (P = .001) and serum total IgE (P = .04). Among children exposed to gun violence, each quartile increase in the percentage of African ancestry was associated with approximately 45% higher odds of asthma (95% CI, 1.15-1.84; P = .002) and an approximately 19% increment in total IgE (95%, 0.60-40.65, P = .04). In contrast, there was no significant association between African ancestry and asthma or total IgE in children not exposed to gun violence.


Our results suggest that exposure to gun violence modifies the estimated effect of African ancestry on asthma and atopy in Puerto Rican children.

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