The distribution of total and specific serum IgE in the european community respiratory health survey

Peter Burney*, Effie Malmberg, Susan Chinn, Deborah Jarvis, Christina Luczynska, Eric Lai

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

283 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Variations in the prevalence of atopy could provide important clues to the etiology of atopy and asthma. Although estimates of prevalence are available from different studies, a lack of standardization makes comparisons difficult. Objective: This study was conducted to estimate the variation of geometric mean levels of serum IgE and the prevalence of specific IgE to common allergens between populations as part of the European Community Respiratory Health Survey (ECRHS), a multicenter survey of asthma and risk factors for asthma. Methods: Random samples of subjects living in 37 centers in 16 countries who had answered a questionnaire about their respiratory symptoms were invited for further assessment including total serum IgE and the presence of specific IgE against house dust mite (Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus), timothy grass, cat, Cladosporium herbarum, and a local allergen. Sera were tested from 13,883 persons. Results: The estimated prevalence of atopy, defined as the presence of at least one positive specific IgE, ranged from 16% in Albacete (Spain) to 45% in Christchurch (New Zealand). The geometric mean total serum IgE varied from 13 kU/L in Reykjavik (Iceland) to 62 kU/L in Bordeaux (France). There was no relation between the geometric mean total serum IgE in a center and the prevalence of atopy. Conclusions: There are substantial variations in the prevalence of atopy and the level of serum IgE. These variations are independent of each other and likely to be largely environmental in origin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)314-322
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Supported by the European Commission. The following grants helped to fund the local studies. Allen and Hanbury's, Australia; Belgian Science Policy Office, National Fund for Scientific Research; Ministère de la Santé, Glaxo France; Insitut Pneumologique d'Aquitaine, Contrat de Plan Etat-Région Languedoc-Rousillon, Caisse Nationale de Maladies des Travailleurs Salariés, Comité National contre les Maladies Respiratoires et la Tuburculose (90MR/10, 91AF/6), Ministre delegué de la santé, éseau Nationale de Santé Publique. GSF\NForschungszentrum fuer Umwelt und Gesundheit and the Bundesminister für Forschung und Technologie, Bonn; The Greek Secretary General of Research and Technology, Fisons, Astra and Boehringer-Ingelheim; Ministero dell' Università e della Ricerca Scientifica e Tecnologica, CNR, Regione Veneto grant RSF n. 381/05.93; Asthma Foundation of New Zealand, Lotteries Grant Board, Health Research Council of New Zealand; Norwegian Research Council project no. 101422/310; Glaxo Farmacêutica Lda, Sandoz Portugesa; Ministero Sanidad y Consumo Fondo de Investigatión Sanitaria grants no. 91/0016060/00E-05E., no. 92/0319, no. 93/0393, Hospital General de Albacete, Hospital General Juan Ramón Jiménenz, Consejeria de Sanidad Principado de Asturias; The Swedish Medical Research Council, the Swedish Heart Lung Foundation, the Swedish Association against Asthma and Allergy; Swiss National Science Foundation grant 4026-28099; National Asthma Campaign, British Lung Foundation, Department of Health, South Thames Regional Health Authority; United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare Public Health Service grant no. 2 S07 RR05521-28.


  • Cladosporium herbarum
  • Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus
  • Parietaria judaica
  • Serum IgE
  • birch
  • cat
  • grass
  • prevalence
  • ragweed


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