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Biomarkers for pollen-related symptoms in allergic and non-allergic individuals

Published online: April 6, 2020

It is well known that pollen causes nasal symptoms in people with seasonal allergic rhinitis. How the magnitude of allergic symptoms changes under natural pollen exposure is poorly understood. Moreover, not only allergic, but also non-allergic individuals are exposed to pollen every year and mount a specific immune response, which is thought to be different from the immune response of allergic patients.
In a work recently published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI), a team of researchers from the Technical University of Munich (Germany) led by Claudia Traidl-Hoffman and Stefanie Gilles set out to study how symptoms develop during springtime birch pollen exposure in two well-defined cohorts of volunteers with and without seasonal allergic rhinitis. The subjects filled out a daily online symptom diary and underwent repeated biosampling for a whole year. A key question the researchers sought to answer with their approach was whether the severity of nasal symptoms can be predicted by immune mediators measured in the nasal fluid.

Their key finding was that a signature of nasal cytokines and immunoglobulins can predict the severity of symptoms under seasonal pollen exposure. Notably, the biomarkers were the same for allergic rhinitis patients and non-allergic subjects. This points out that the difference between a healthy and disease-type nasal immune response in allergic rhinitis might be gradual.

Whether the nasal immune mediator signature associated with symptoms in non-allergic individuals identifies people who might develop seasonal allergic rhinitis later in life will have to be tested in future prospective studies.

The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI) is the official scientific journal of the AAAAI, and is the most-cited journal in the field of allergy and clinical immunology.

Close-up of pine tree branches in Winter Close-up of pine tree branches in Winter