Endotoxin in inner-city homes: Associations with wheeze and eczema in early childhood

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Abstract

Background

An inverse association between domestic exposure to endotoxin and atopy in childhood has been observed. The relevance of this aspect of the hygiene hypothesis to US inner-city communities that have disproportionately high asthma prevalence has not been determined.

Objectives

To measure endotoxin in the dust from inner-city homes, evaluate associations between endotoxin and housing/lifestyle characteristics, and determine whether endotoxin exposure predicted wheeze, allergic rhinitis, and eczema over the first 3 years of life.

Methods

As part of an ongoing prospective birth cohort study, children of Dominican and African-American mothers living in New York City underwent repeated questionnaire measures. Dust samples collected from bedroom floors at age 12 or 36 months were assayed for endotoxin.

Results

Among the samples collected from 301 participants' homes, the geometric mean endotoxin concentration (95% CI) was 75.9 EU/mg (66–87), and load was 3892 EU/m2 (3351–4522). Lower endotoxin concentrations were associated with wet mop cleaning and certain neighborhoods. Endotoxin concentration correlated weakly with cockroach (Bla g 2: r = 0.22, P < .001) and mouse (mouse urinary protein: r = 0.28; P < .001) allergens in the dust. Children in homes with higher endotoxin concentration were less likely to have eczema at age 1 year (odds ratio, 0.70 [0.53–0.93]) and more likely to wheeze at age 2 years (odds ratio, 1.34 [1.01–1.78]). These associations were stronger among children with a maternal history of asthma.

Conclusion

Endotoxin levels in this inner-city community are similar to those in nonfarm homes elsewhere. In this community, domestic endotoxin exposure was inversely associated with eczema at age 1 year, but positively associated with wheeze at age 2 years.

Clinical implications

Endotoxin exposure in the inner-city community may be related to wheeze in the early life; however, given the inverse association seen with eczema, the long-term development of allergic disease is still in question.

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