, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 155-162

Measuring atopy in a multi-centre epidemiological study

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Abstract

Skin prick tests are used as a measure of atopy in epidemiological studies, but results may be influenced by the fieldworker performing the test. In a multi-centre epidemiological study the method of reporting the results should consider the need for comparability of findings from different centres. Data on over 1000 subjects from three English centres of the European Community Respiratory Health Survey were analysed to determine whether allergen wheal should be adjusted for histamine wheal, and what cutoff diameter gave the most comparable results. No consistent relation between allergen wheal diameter and histamine wheal diameter was found for any fieldworker or allergen. A cutoff of > 0 mm for a positive result gave a more consistent relation with the corresponding specific IgE value between fieldworkers than either a cutoff of ⩾ 3 mm or the use of the mean wheal diameter. While this result is not immediately generalisable to studies using different skin prick test reagents, the method of analysis to determine the appropriate criterion of reporting can be used in other epidemiological studies.