Environmental grass pollen levels in utero and at birth and cord blood IgE: Analysis of three birth cohorts

Nugroho Harry Susanto, Ann Marie Malby Schoos, Marie Standl, Adrian J. Lowe, Shyamali C. Dharmage, Cecilie Svanes, Agus Salim, Andrea von Berg, Irina Lehmann, Morten Arendt Rasmussen, Matthias Werchan, Karl Christian Bergmann, Caroline Lodge, Michael J. Abramson, Joachim Heinrich, Hans Bisgaard, Bircan Erbas

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Background: Early life factors are associated with allergic respiratory diseases, but the role of high grass pollen concentrations during pregnancy and shortly after birth is not known. Objective: To assess outdoor levels of grass pollen during the intrauterine period and at birth during peak pollen season on cord blood IgE in birth cohorts. Methods: Three birth cohorts were included: MACS (n = 429), Australia; COPSAC 2000 (n = 200), Denmark; and LISA (n = 1968), Germany. Cord blood IgE was categorized (<0.5 kU/L, 0.5–1 kU/L, >1 kU/L) and dichotomized (high IgE ≥ 0.5 kU/L). Birth during the grass pollen season months and cumulative exposure to outdoor grass pollen counts during pregnancy with cord blood IgE were analysed using multinomial regression and analysed in meta-analysis using binomial regression adjusted for potential confounders. Results: Birth during the grass pollen season had higher pooled odds of cord blood IgE >0.5 kU/L 1.37 (95% CI 1.06, 1.77) in a meta-analysis with little heterogeneity between the three cohorts. Cumulative exposure to outdoor grass pollen counts during the entire pregnancy was associated with slightly lower pooled odds but significant (OR = 0.98, 95% CI: 0.96 to 0.99). Conclusions: Birth during grass pollen seasons were associated with increased risk of high cord blood IgE in cities from both hemispheres, but high pollen loads in the environment during the entire pregnancy appeared protective. As IgE responses develop during the first months of life, our study findings provide new insights into the mechanisms of grass pollen exposure at birth and shortly after on possible allergic respiratory diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-301
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironment International
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018


  • Allergic respiratory disease
  • Cord blood IgE
  • Grass pollen
  • In utero

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