The researchers found that the patterns of cytokines related to certain stimulants differed based on the level of stress mothers reported.
"The ctyokine patterns seen in the higher stress groups, which are an indication of how the child's immune system is functioning at birth, may be a marker of increased risk for developing asthma and allergy as they get older," explained Dr. Wright.
"For example, while the debate continues as to whether primary sensitization to allergens begins before birth, these findings suggest the possibility that prenatal stress may enhance the neonates' response to inhalant antigens, specifically those antigens that the fetus is likely to encounter more directly in utero, like dust mite."
The research, a prospective cohort study funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, will continue as the infants grow up to determine whether maternal stress levels do indeed have an impact on asthma development.
"The current findings suggest that psychological stress is involved in programming of the infant immune response and that this influence begins during pregnancy," said Dr. Wright. "As these infants mature, we will learn how these factors manifest later in terms of the development of asthma and allergy."
|Contact: Keely Savoie|
American Thoracic Society