Proliferative responses of cord blood lymphocytes (CBLs) to food antigens and cord blood IgE concentrations were measured in 37 full term newborn infants for the prediction of allergic disorders. In these 37 infants who were followed up for two years, allergic history of the family was found in four (sensitivity 57.1%) and cord blood IgE concentrations were greater than 0.5 IU/ml in three (sensitivity 42.9%) of seven infants who developed allergic disorders. When CBLs were stimulated twice by ovalbumin or bovine serum albumin, the value of the stimulation index in proliferative responses of CBLs to ovalbumin or bovine serum albumin was greater than 1.5 in six (sensitivity 85.7%) of seven infants who developed allergic disorders. The specificity of the responses of CBLs in the prediction of the development of allergic disorders was 93.3%. The proliferative responses of CBLs to food antigens were useful in the prediction of not only development of allergic disorders but also offending allergens. These observations provide further evidence that sensitisation is occurring in utero. This would appear to be increasingly important in the genesis of early atopic problems. As our follow up is only two years, in utero sensitisation is a prediction for the early development of atopic disease but only longer follow up will show whether this holds good for allergic disorders at any age.
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