New evidence indicates that working-aged adults with atopic disease are for more likely to experience lower respiratory tract infections (LRTIs), including acute bronchitis and pneumonia, and upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs), according to research published in PLoS One.

The occurrence of respiratory infections increased with increasing levels of specific IgE antibodies to common aeroallergens, showing a dose-response pattern with LRTIs.

“From the preventive and clinical point of view it is important to recognize that those with atopies are a risk group for respiratory infections, including more severe lower respiratory infections,” the authors concluded. “Relevant questions for the future are to study whether effective treatment of allergic diseases could prevent respiratory infections, and to consider if all those with atopic diseases should be subject to preventive measures, such as vaccinations.”

Investigators performed a randomized survey of 1008 adults aged 21 to 63 years, of whom 73.2% provided a serum sample for the measurement of IgE antibodies to common aeroallergens. Overall, 21.6% reported allergic rhinitis; 34.1% reported allergic dermatitis, and 7.5% reported previous or current asthma.

Those with atopic disease were 50% more likely than those without atopic disease to have experienced URTI in the past 12 months and they were more than twice as likely to have experienced LRTI. Asthma increased the odds for developing a LRTI 4.7-fold; dermatitis was associated with 1.8- and 1.6-fold increased odds for LRTI and URTI, respectively. Allergic rhinitis was not significantly associated with either type of infection.

Increasing specific IgE, as measured by Phadiatop score, also appeared to be associated with the risk for respiratory infections, with a linear trend observed for LRTI. The risk for URTI was highest among those with a Phadiatop score of more than 4.

The findings support the hypothesis that allergies are linked to an increased susceptibility to infection, and add to their previous study results showing a strong association between recently experienced LRTI and adult-onset asthma in atopic individuals, according to researchers.