Researchers say exposure to cockroach infestations may be linked to the high rate of children with asthma.
A study conducted by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health revealed that children living in New York City blocks where asthma is common have higher levels of exposure to cockroach allergens.
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Researchers compared the household presence of cockroach, mouse, cat, dust mite and other allergens in neighbourhoods with a high prevalence of asthma to that in low-prevalence neighbourhoods.
It emerged that these allergens were significantly higher in homes located in neighbourhoods where asthma is more common and children in these homes were more likely to be sensitised to cockroach antigens.
The study analysed 239 children aged 7-8 years, out of which 120 lived in high asthma prevalence neighbourhoods and 119 were from low-prevalence areas.
Based on a parent reported survey of symptoms, 128 kids were classified as having asthma and 111 were assigned to a control group.
Researchers found that cockroach, mouse and cat allergens were more prevalent in the bed dust taken from homes in high asthma neighbourhoods than low asthma neighbourhoods.
It also emerged that sensitivity to cockroach allergen was twice as common: 23.7 percent versus 10.8 percent.
"Our findings demonstrate the relevance of exposure and sensitisation to cockroach, mouse, dust mite, and cat in an urban community and suggest that cockroach allergen exposure could contribute to the higher asthma prevalence observed in some New York City neighbourhoods," said Matthew Perzanowski, associate professor of Environmental Health Sciences and senior author.
The study appears online in the Journal of Clinical Immunology.