The prevalence of allergic diseases is increasing worldwide, but the reasons are not well understood. Previous studies suggest that this trend may be associated with lifestyle and urbanization.
To describe patterns of sensitization and allergic disease in an unselected agricultural Chinese population.
The data was derived from a community-based twin study in Anqing, China. Skin prick testing was performed to foods and aeroallergens. Atopy was defined as sensitization to ≥1 allergen. Allergic disease was ascertained by self-report. The analysis was stratified by sex and age (children [11-17 years] and adults [≥18 years]) and included 1059 same-sex twin pairs.
Of 2118 subjects, 57.6% were male (n=1220). Ages ranged from 11-71 years; 43.3% were children (n=918). Atopy was observed in 47.2% (n=999) of participants. The most common sensitizing foods were shellfish (16.7%) and peanut (12.3%). The most common sensitizing aeroallergens were dust mite (30.6%) and cockroach (25.2%). Birth order and zygosity had no effect on sensitization rates. Multivariate logistic regression models revealed risk factors for sensitization include age for foods and sex for aeroallergens. The rates of food allergy and asthma were estimated to be <1%.
Atopic sensitization was common in this rural farming Chinese population, particularly to shellfish, peanut, dust mite, and cockroach. The prevalence of allergic disease, in contrast, was quite low.
Allergen sensitization was far more common than the rate of self-reported allergic disease in this community. Evidence of sensitization is an inadequate marker of allergic disease and better correlates with clinical disease are needed.
Among this large unselected Chinese rural farming community, atopy was observed in nearly half of the study subjects, but the rate of allergic disease was comparatively very low.