Geographical variations in the prevalence of atopic sensitization in six study sites across Canada
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BACKGROUND: Geographical variations in atopic sensitization in Canada have not been described previously. This study used the standardized protocol of the European Community Respiratory Health Survey-1 (ECRHS-1) to investigate the distribution and predictors of atopic sensitization in six sites across Canada and to compare the results with some ECRHS-1 centers. METHODS: Adults aged 20-44 years in six study sites across Canada underwent allergy skin testing using 14 allergens (Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus, Dermatophagoides farinae) cat, cockroach, grasses (Timothy grass, Kentucky grass), molds (Cladosporium herbarium, Alternaria alternata, Aspergillus fumigatus, Penicillium), trees (tree mix, birch, Olea europea), and common ragweed. RESULTS: The overall prevalence of atopy (skin test over 0 mm to any allergen) was 62.7%. There was significant geographical variation in the prevalence of atopy in the six study sites (lowest 55.6% [95% C.I.51.3-59.9] in Prince Edward Island, highest 66.0 [61.7-70.3] in Montreal) and of sensitization to each of the allergens tested even after adjustment for confounders. When the first eight of the nine allergens in the ECRHS were used to estimate the prevalence of atopic sensitization, the prevalence of atopy in Canada was 57% compared with 35.2% overall for centers in the ECRHS. The prevalence of atopy in Vancouver (57% [52.3-61.8]) was close to that of Portland, Oregon (52.1% [46.2-58.0]). CONCLUSION: There was a significant variation in atopic sensitization among different study sites across Canada. The prevalence of atopic sensitization is relatively high in Canada compared with sites in the ECRHS and this may, in part, account for the high prevalence of asthma and asthma symptoms in Canada.
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