In order to investigate the modes of inheritance of serum immunoglobulin E (IgE) levels and atopic disease, serum IgE levels and data on allergic disease were obtained from 42 families ascertained through asthmatic children visiting an allergy clinic. Although the mean IgE levels were elevated (mean 637 U/ml), the prevalence of atopic disease in this population was surprisingly low. When the data were analyzed using complex segregation analysis, no major locus could be detected. Moreover, the polygenic heritability was unexpectedly small even though the correlation between serum IgE levels and the liability to atopic disease was around 0.4. Given this unusual set of findings, it is postulated that parasitic infections in this population have (in accordance with well-established results of parasitic disease) caused both elevated levels of serum IgE and a decreased prevalence of allergic disease with the possible masking of the various genetic components of serum IgE levels and atopic disease.
- Segregation analysis