A positive skin prick test result in the mother of a wheezing infant is significantly predictive of the subsequent development of asthma in the child, according to findings published in the June issue of the Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.

"Many attempts have been made to predict the outcome of infantile wheezing," Dr. Arnon Elizur, of Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri, and colleagues write. "Allergy to an aeroallergen or evidence of other atopic disease, such as eczema, in a wheezing child and a family history of asthma in a parent of such a child have been found to be important predictors of childhood asthma."

The researchers examined whether a positive skin prick test result in a parent predicted the development of asthma in a child who wheezed as an infant, in a retrospective study.

The team investigated 91 subjects from 71 families. Inclusion criteria were current age between 6 and 40 years, and a history of wheezing, treatment with bronchodilators, or physician diagnosis of asthma during the first 3 years of life. The participants were asked about current asthma-related symptoms, and underwent pulmonary function testing and skin prick testing. The parents of the participants underwent skin prick testing and measurement of total serum IgE levels.

A total of 56 participants (61%) were diagnosed with asthma, 45 of whom had current asthma-related symptoms. Thirty of the asthmatic patients were younger than 20 years of age.

A positive maternal skin prick test result conferred a 3.4-fold risk of asthma (p = 0.02), the team found. No such relation was observed with paternal positive skin prick test results.

"Parental history of allergy or asthma did not confer a significant risk of asthma in the participants," Dr. Elizur and colleagues report. "Maternal smoking during pregnancy or early childhood was not correlated with the development of asthma in a participant," they note. "Elevated levels of IgE in at least one parent were related to a 4-fold risk of asthma in the participants."

The team concludes that maternal skin prick test results might "potentially help with the decision regarding initiation of preventive treatment" for asthma in a wheezing child.