, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 245-249

Trend of herbaceous pollen diffusion and allergic sensitisation in Genoa, Italy

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Abstract

In order to investigate the relationship betweenallergenic load and allergic sensitisation prevalenceon a long period, we analysed the annual data ofherbaceous pollen airborne diffusion in Genoa(NW-Italy) for 17 years (1981–1997), with particularregard to the most important allergenic species:Poaceae, Parietaria, Artemisia, Ambrosia. Weevaluated the relative trend and compared it with theprevalence data of patients sensitisation to thesepollens in the same period.The analysis of annual pollen amount revealed asignificant rising trend (r = 0.73, p < 0.05) of Parietaria pollen (average 14.324 grains/m3/year),whereas Poaceae (2048/year) and Artemisia(170/year) pollen count did not show any significantchange. Ambrosia (average 70/year) has been rising since 1989 (r = 0.87, p < 0.05) and reached themaximum pollen count in the last three years.

The prevalence of pollen sensitisation resulted to bevery high (about 75%) in our atopic patients withrespiratory symptoms and did not change significantlyin the years: Parietaria pollen allergy waspresent in about 70% of patients with at least oneSPT positive to pollens (and 55% of atopicsubjects), and this frequency, much higher than theone found in North Italy, showed low year-to-year variability.Among pollinotics patients, Poaceae cutaneoussensitisation was found at a quite stable rate in theabove mentioned period (about 51%), as well as thatto Artemisia pollen (8%). Ambrosia skinprick test positivity is very rare (about 0.5%),without any evident increase.

The present study shows that, for some of theherbaceous species, we cannot demonstrate astraightforward relationship between the trend ofairborne pollen and the frequency of sensitisation inexposed people. However, in the case of Parietaria, the high level of pollen amount in theair is clearly related with the high rate of cutaneous positivity in patients, but it seems tosuggest a ``plateau'' that is not modified by anyfurther increase in airborne pollen (perhaps forgenetic limiting factors). On the other hand, Ambrosia pollen count, even if increasing in Genoa'satmosphere, could still be too low, and it would takesome more time to cause allergic sensitisation in exposed people.

This kind of study, pointing out the influence ofairborne allergen exposure on hypersensitivitymechanisms, should be extended in time and world-wideto obtain general conclusions.