Prenatal exposure to ambient air pollution is associated with early life immune perturbations

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BACKGROUND: Exposure to ambient air pollution has been linked to asthma, allergic rhinitis, and other inflammatory disorders, but little is known about the underlying mechanisms.

OBJECTIVE: We studied the potential mechanisms leading from prenatal ambient air pollution exposure to asthma and allergy in childhood.

METHODS: Long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) as well as to particulate matter with a diameter of ≤2.5 and ≤10 μm (PM2.5 and PM10) were modeled at the residence level from conception to 6 years of age in 700 Danish children followed clinically for development of asthma and allergy. Nasal mucosal immune mediators were assessed at age 4 weeks and 6 years, inflammatory markers in blood at 6 months, and nasal epithelial DNA methylation and gene expression at age 6 years.

RESULTS: Higher prenatal air pollution exposure with NO2, PM2.5, and PM10 was associated with an altered nasal mucosal immune profile at 4 weeks, conferring an increased odds ratio [95% confidence interval] of 2.68 [1.58, 4.62] for allergic sensitization and 2.63 [1.18, 5.81] for allergic rhinitis at age 6 years, and with an altered immune profile in blood at age 6 months conferring increased risk of asthma at age 6 years (1.80 [1.18, 2.76]). Prenatal exposure to ambient air pollution was not robustly associated with immune mediator, epithelial DNA methylation, or gene expression changes in nasal cells at age 6 years.

CONCLUSION: Prenatal exposure to ambient air pollution was associated with early life immune perturbations conferring risk of allergic rhinitis and asthma. These findings suggest potential mechanisms of prenatal exposure to ambient air pollution on the developing immune system.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Journal of allergy and clinical immunology
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)212-221
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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Copyright © 2022 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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