Prenatal Stress May Affect Infant Immune System

Stress and dust mite exposure during pregnancy may influence fetal immune system development

FRIDAY, Feb. 10 (HealthDay News) -- A woman's prenatal exposure to high stress and dust mite allergens may interact to affect the immune system of her offspring, according to a study published online Feb. 6 in Allergy.

Junenette L. Peters, Ph.D., of the Boston University School of Public Health, and associates surveyed mothers to evaluate prenatal stress, and measured dust mite allergens in their bedrooms, to determine if the exposures affected immune response in 403 predominantly low-income minority infants whose cord blood immunoglobulin E (IgE) was measured.

The researchers found high prenatal stress resulted in increased cord blood IgE. Among children of atopic mothers, the positive association between stress and IgE was greater in those with higher exposure to dust mites. For nonatopic mothers, the investigators found a positive relationship between stress and IgE in the low allergen exposure group.

"Maternal stress is amenable to intervention, and these data suggest the need to consider stress reduction interventions during critical periods of child development, including pregnancy, to reduce risk of asthma and related disorders," the authors write. "Moreover, the demonstration of synergistic effects of stress and aeroallergen exposure points to the need for a multi-pronged intervention approach to reducing disease risk."

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