Sensitization and allergic histories differ between black and white pregnant women

Ganesa Wegienka, Christine L.M. Joseph, Suzanne Havstad, Edward Zoratti, Dennis Ownby, Christine Cole Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: Racial differences in allergic diseases have been reported, with black subjects suffering disproportionately compared with white subjects, although such studies have been more commonly done in pediatric populations. Objective: We sought to determine whether there are differences in rates of allergic sensitization or prior diagnoses of asthma, hay fever, or eczema in black and white pregnant women. Methods: Women were recruited during pregnancy (regardless of allergic history) as part of a birth cohort study in the Detroit metropolitan area and were interviewed about prior doctors' diagnoses of asthma, hay fever/nasal allergies/allergic rhinitis, and eczema. Blood samples were collected, total IgE levels were determined, and specific IgE levels were measured for Alternaria alternata, cat, cockroach, dog, Dermatophagoides farinae, short ragweed, timothy grass, and egg. Results: Black women (n = 563) were more likely than white women (n = 219) to have had at least 1 specific IgE level of 0.35 IU/mL or greater (62.5% vs 40.2%, P < .001). Black women had higher total IgE levels (geometric mean, 47.8 IU/mL [95% CI, 42.5-53.8 IU/mL] vs 20.0 IU/mL [95% CI, 16.2-24.6 IU/mL]; P < .001, Wilcoxon rank sum test). Black women were more likely to have had a prior doctor's diagnosis of asthma (22.7% vs 16.0%, P = .04) and eczema (21.9% vs 14.8%) but not hay fever (white women: 17.5% vs black women: 15.7%, P = .55). Associations persisted for total IgE levels, having 1 or more positive allergen-specific IgE levels, and eczema after adjusting for common socioeconomic or environmental variables. Conclusions: Racial differences in allergic sensitization and diagnoses were present, even after controlling for various factors. Future research should focus on prevention to ameliorate these disparities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)657-662.e2
JournalJournal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • IgE
  • Pregnancy
  • allergic rhinitis
  • asthma
  • atopy
  • eczema
  • ethnicity
  • race

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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