Effect of prenatal indoor pet exposure on the trajectory of total IgE levels in early childhood

Suzanne Havstad, Ganesa Wegienka, Edward M. Zoratti, Susan V. Lynch, Homer A. Boushey, Charlotte Nicholas, Dennis R. Ownby, Christine Cole Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Background: The presence of pets in a home during the prenatal period and during early infancy has been associated with a lower prevalence of allergic sensitization and total IgE levels in middle childhood. No studies have examined the effect of pet exposure in a population-based cohort by using multiple early-life measures of serum total IgE. Objective: We sought to examine within-individual longitudinal trends in total IgE levels during early childhood and assess the effect of indoor prenatal pet exposure on those trends. Also, we sought to use a statistical method that was flexible enough to allow and account for unequally spaced study contacts and missing data. Methods: Using the population-based Wayne County Health, Environment, Allergy and Asthma Longitudinal Study birth cohort (62% African American), we analyzed 1187 infants with 1 to 4 measurements of total IgE collected from birth to 2 years of age. Effects of pet exposure on the shape and trajectory of IgE levels were assessed by using a multilevel longitudinal model, accommodating repeated measures, missing data, and the precise time points of data collection. Results: The best-fit shape to the trajectory of IgE levels was nonlinear, with an accelerated increase before 6 months. Total IgE levels were lower across the entire early-life period when there was prenatal indoor pet exposure (P <.001). This effect was statistically significantly stronger in children delivered by means of cesarean section versus those delivered vaginally (P < .001 and P <.06, respectively) and in those born to non-African American (P <.001) versus African American (P < .3) mothers. Conclusion: Pet exposure and delivery mode might be markers of infant exposure to distinct microbiomes. The effect of exposures might vary by race, suggesting a differential effect by ancestry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)880-885.e4
JournalJournal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Total IgE
  • cohort
  • longitudinal
  • multilevel model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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