Serum immunoglobulin E levels in Israeli-Ethiopian children: Environment and genetics

Mona Iancovici Kidon, Miguel Stein, Carmi Geller-Bernstein, Ziva Weisman, Shoshana Steinberg, Zalman Greenberg, Zeev T. Handzel, Zvi Bentwich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Background: Since 1984, several waves of Ethiopian immigrants have settled in Israel. On arrival they were found to be highly infected with intestinal parasites and to have increased serum immunoglobulin E and eosinophilia. Objectives: To study serum IgE levels in Ethiopian children growing up in the environment of Israel. Methods: We assessed four groups of children of Ethiopian origin: a) adolescents examined on their arrival to Israel (group 1, n=11); b) adolescents born in Ethiopia and living in Israel for more than 7 years (group 2, n=10); c) children of Ethiopian origin born in Israel, without a history of allergy or asthma (group 3, n=15); and d) asthmatic children of Ethiopian origin born in Israel (group 4, n=8). A thorough clinical interview and examination as well as laboratory work up (including serum IgE levels, stool parasites and absolute eosinophil count) were performed. Results: Group 1 (11 newly arrived Ethiopian adolescents) had a mean eosinophil count of 688 cells/ml (0-1739) and a mean serum IgE of 1043 IU/ml (253-2932), P< 0.0009 as compared to group 2. Helminthic parasites were observed in 8/11 individuals; after 1 year of follow-up and anti-parasitic treatment, serum IgE levels did not change significantly. Group 2 (10 Ethiopian born adolescents living in Israel for on average 10 years, 7-15 years) had a normal leukocyte count, MEC 192 cells/ml (range 54-289), serum IgE 142 IU/ml (range 14-399 IU/ml) and no parasites in stool. Group 3 (15 Ethiopian children born in Israel) had a normal leukocyte count, MEC 128 cells/ml (0-324), serum IgE 55 IU/ml (7-189 IU/ml), similar to age-matched Israeli controls. In group 4 (8 Israeli born children of Ethiopian descent diagnosed with asthma), serum IgE showed significant elevation compared to Israeli age-matched asthmatic children (P< 0.005). Conclusions: High levels of IgE found in Ethiopian children on arrival to Israel declined to Israeli control levels after several years of living in the new environment. Ethiopian children born in Israel had normal levels of IgE, suggesting that environment is the main factor affecting IgE levels in this population. Israeli born Ethiopian children with asthma had significantly increased serum IgE levels compared to asthmatics of Israeli origin. These findings suggest that both environmental and genetic factors determine the level of serum IgE in these children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)799-802
Number of pages4
JournalIsrael Medical Association Journal
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2005


  • Asthma
  • Atopy
  • Helminths
  • Immunoglobulin E
  • Parasites

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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