Cockroach Allergens Linked To Asthma

Asthma attacks occur in neighborhoods where homes have high levels of cockroach allergens

June 5, 2011 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

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(dailyRx News) Children can live as little as two blocks from each other in New York City and have an asthma occurrence two to three times greater in one neighborhood as opposed to the other. Researchers decided to take a look at each asthmatic's home environment.

Researchers at Columbia University presumed their air pollution exposure to be approximately the same in the two neighbors. They found the difference. One neighborhood, whose children were at three times greater risk of having asthma had significantly increased allergens from cockroaches, mice and cats compared to the neighborhood with less asthma patients.

"Healthy, clean homes create healthier children."

Matthew Perzanowski, PhD, associate professor of Environmental Health Sciences and senior author reports that his study's findings demonstrate the importance of exposure to mouse, dust mite, cockroach and cat allergens in urban communities.

He suggests that cockroach allergens in the child's home contributes to a higher asthma prevalence in some New York Communities. More validity is given to this New York study because they've taken air pollution and climate out of the equation. A neighborhood two blocks away, less prevalence of asthma in these children had less home allergens as well.

 Perzanowski observes that significant differences in allergen exposure in homes throughout New York City have been demonstrated with this unique study cohort:

  • Cockroach allergens were higher in homes with a neighborhood prevalence of asthma.
  • Cockroach allergies were higher where asthma rates were higher.
  • Cockroach allergens in the home was associated with developing cockroach allergies.
  • Cockroach allergies were associated with higher rates of asthma.

The researchers studied young children in around 2nd or 3rd grade who were enrolled in the middle income HIP Health Plan of New York, which is  part of the ongoing New York City Neighborhood Asthma and Allergy Study. 

120 of these young children lived in high asthma prevalence neighborhoods and 119 lived in the low asthma prevalence areas. Based on a parent reported survey of symptoms, 128 were classified as having asthma and 111 were assigned to the non-asthma group.

Allergen exposure was measured by collecting and analyzing bed dust samples from the upper half of the children’s beds, which was closest to their noses. Blood samples were taken to assess sensitization for antibodies to various household allergens.

Earlier studies of inner-city children have also found that exposure and sensitization to cockroach and mouse allergens is associated with asthma development.

The researchers found that cockroach, mouse and cat allergens were more prevalent in the bed dust taken from homes in high asthma prevalent neighborhoods than the low asthma prevalent neighborhoods.

Furthermore, sensitivity to cockroach allergen was twice as common in the high asthma prevalent neighborhood children: 23.7% versus 10.8%.

Additionally, here was no significant difference by neighborhood in sensitization to mouse and cat antigens. Cockroach allergies appear to be the culprit.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 1, 2011
Last Updated:
June 5, 2011