House dust mites main cause of respiratory allergies in Singapore: researchers

A recent study says the primary cause of respiratory allergies in Singapore is exposure to house dust mites. (Getty Images)

The primary cause of respiratory allergies in Singapore is exposure to house dust mites, according to a study by the country’s national research agency and the National University of Singapore (NUS).

Scientists and clinicians from A*STAR’s Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN) and NUS also suggested that changes in lifestyle resulting in more time spent indoors increase the exposure to high loads of house dust mite allergens.

Their findings were published in an article in the latest issue of scientific journal “Allergy”. In the article, the researchers noted that around 80 per cent of some 8,000 participants were reactive to house dust mites, while only showing minor reactivity to any other allergen.

They said this high rate of reactions from house dust mites are strongly correlated with increased rates of allergic rhinitis and asthma in Singapore.

The researchers also found that participants who originate from non-tropical countries were less likely to become sensitive to house dust mites when they first arrived in Singapore but then became more likely to become sensitive as they spent more time in the country.

The increase in “sensitisation” rates was accompanied by an increase in airway allergies, they noted.

Meanwhile, migrants from countries which have similar tropical climate to Singapore, such as Malaysia, showed comparable rates as Singaporeans, the researchers added.

The researchers also noted that with the identification of this trigger and its dominance in Singapore, scientists can develop more effective allergy mitigation strategies and improve quality of life for sufferers.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), it is estimated that approximately 300 million people suffer from asthma worldwide and even more are affected by allergic rhinitis.

Both conditions are now increasingly common in Southeast Asian populations.

The new study also revealed that close to 15 per cent of Singapore’s adult population are affected by asthma and nearly 40 per cent are troubled by allergic rhinitis.

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