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Effects of airborne pollen on cardiorespiratory health and allergic symptoms

Applicant Eeftens Marloes
Number 185864
Funding scheme Ambizione
Research institution Department of Epidemiology and Public Health Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute Universität Basel
Institution of higher education University of Basel - BS
Main discipline Methods of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine
Start/End 01.11.2019 - 31.10.2023
Approved amount 863'228.00
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All Disciplines (3)

Discipline
Methods of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine
Respiratory Diseases
Cardiovascular Diseases

Keywords (7)

Cardiovascular disease; Public Health; Mortality; Hospitalization; Respiratory disease; Airborne Pollen; Allergic symptoms

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Pollen in der Luft können neben allergischen Reaktionen auch zu erhöhter Sterblichkeit und vermehrten Spitaleintritten führen. Das Projekt wird die tägliche Pollenbelastung der ganzen Schweiz für die letzten 16 Jahre geografisch modellieren, und diese Karten mit Symptomdaten von Apps, Spitaleintritten und Sterbedaten verknüpfen. So wird die neue Studie zu einem besseren Verständnis der gesundheitlichen Auswirkungen von Pollen führen.
Lay summary

Inhalt und Ziele des Forschungsprojekts

Inhalt und Ziele des Forschungsprojekts

Inhalt und Ziele des Forschungsprojekts

Inhalt und Ziele des Forschungsprojekts

Inhalt und Ziele des Forschungsprojekts
Durch die globale Erwärmung wird die Pollensaison länger und intensiver. Gleichzeitig haben sich neue und stark allergene Pollenarten durch die Globalisierung ausgebreitet und die Pollensensibilisierung in der Bevölkerung nimmt weltweit zu. Einige Studien legen nahe, dass Pollen als „bionische Luftschadstoffe“ nicht nur Juckreiz und Niesen hervorrufen, sondern auch zu schwerwiegenderen gesundheitlichen Auswirkungen führen können. Darüber hinaus könnte eine kombinierte Belastung von Pollen, Luftverschmutzung und Wetterbedingungen verstärkende Effekte haben. Dies wurde bisher jedoch kaum erforscht.

Wissenschaftlicher und gesellschaftlicher Kontext des Forschungsprojekts
Das Team von Dr. Eeftens möchte untersuchen, wie sich die Beziehung zwischen Pollen und Gesundheit in den letzten Jahrzehnten entwickelt hat und welche Bevölkerungsgruppen am stärksten gefährdet sind. Zu diesem Zweck werden die Daten der Jahre 2003-2019 von 14 Pollenmessstationen in der Schweiz ausgewertet und tägliche Pollenkarten erstellt. Mit diesen Karten können die Pollenwerte mit Spital- und Sterbedaten verknüpft werden, um herauszufinden, ob Zusammenhänge bestehen mit Atemwegs- oder Herz-Kreislauf-Erkrankungen. Zusätzlich wird das Auftreten von Symptomen bei Allergiker mit Apps („e-symptoms“ und „Ally Science“) erhoben.  So untersucht das Team, wie sich die Pollensaison im täglichen Leben auf die Gesundheit von Allergikern auswirkt und kann damit individuelle Prognosen anfertigen. Das Projekt wird dazu beitragen, die gesundheitliche Auswirkung von Pollen, die eine grosse Belastung für Gesundheit und Wirtschaft bedeutet, zu verringern.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 02.09.2019

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Multi-decade changes in pollen season onset, duration, and intensity: A concern for public health?
Glick Sarah, Gehrig Regula, Eeftens Marloes (2021), Multi-decade changes in pollen season onset, duration, and intensity: A concern for public health?, in Science of The Total Environment, 781, 146382-146382.
Rationale and design of a panel study investigating six health effects of airborne pollen: the EPOCHAL study
Bürgler Alexandra, Glick Sarah, Hartmann Karin, Eeftens Marloes, Rationale and design of a panel study investigating six health effects of airborne pollen: the EPOCHAL study, in Frontiers in public health, 1.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Swiss National Cohort (SNF) and the University of Zurich Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC), Leiden, The Netherlands Netherlands (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
University Hospital of Basel Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
MeteoSwiss Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
ISEE Young 2021 Talk given at a conference Beyond Seasonal Suffering: Effects of Pollen on Cardiorespiratory Health, Cognitive Performance and Allergic Symptoms 18.02.2021 Basel (online), Switzerland Eeftens Marloes;
Swiss Aerosol Group Talk given at a conference Comparative analysis of 30-year trends in pollen season onset, duration, and intensity for 12 plants (Switzerland, 1990-2019) 03.11.2020 Bern (Online), Switzerland Eeftens Marloes;


Self-organised

Title Date Place

Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Date Place Persons involved
Eidgenossische Kommission für Luftreinhaltung (EKL) Talk 19.05.2021 Bern, Switzerland Eeftens Marloes;
Climate change and public health course: Gesundheit! …But is airborne pollen really "just a sneeze?" Climate change and pollen allergies Talk 27.04.2021 Basel, Switzerland Eeftens Marloes;
Environmental Epidemiology: From measurements to regulation, Air pollution, time series studies Talk 26.11.2020 Basel, Switzerland Eeftens Marloes;


Self-organised

Title Date Place
BSc Biology: Infection Biology and Epidemiology 07.12.2020 Basel, online, Switzerland

Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Media relations: print media, online media Climate change spells tough times for allergy sufferers Swissinfo (ENG) International German-speaking Switzerland Western Switzerland Rhaeto-Romanic Switzerland Italian-speaking Switzerland 2021
Media relations: print media, online media Klimawandel & Gesundheit Beobachter German-speaking Switzerland 2021
Media relations: print media, online media Klimawandel verheisst nichts Gutes für Pollenallergiker Südostschweiz German-speaking Switzerland 2021
Media relations: print media, online media La stagione dei pollini è sempre più lunga e intensa Corriere del Ticino Italian-speaking Switzerland 2021
Media relations: print media, online media Les allergies aux pollens pourraient devenir un problème toujours plus sérieux RTS Western Switzerland 2021
Media relations: print media, online media Pollen season in Switzerland earlier and more intense due to climate change Phys.org International Rhaeto-Romanic Switzerland German-speaking Switzerland Italian-speaking Switzerland Western Switzerland 2021
Media relations: print media, online media Pollen Season in Switzerland Earlier and More Intense Due to Climate Change Environmental News Network International 2021
Media relations: print media, online media Pollenallergiker: Klimawandel verschärft Situation Schweizer Bauer German-speaking Switzerland 2021
Media relations: radio, television Radiogiornale RSI Italian-speaking Switzerland 2021
Media relations: print media, online media Rhume des foins: la saison des pollens toujours plus intense et précoce en Suisse Le Nouvelliste Western Switzerland 2021
Media relations: print media, online media Schlechte Nachrichten für Allergiker: Die Pollensaison wird heftiger NZZ German-speaking Switzerland 2021
Media relations: print media, online media Studie des Tropeninstituts – Pollenflug hat in der Schweiz massiv zugenommen Basler Zeitung German-speaking Switzerland 2021
Media relations: print media, online media Switzerland- Climate change spells tough times for allergy sufferers The Middle East North Africa Financial Network International 2021
Media relations: print media, online media Wenn der Frühling immer früher kommt SRF German-speaking Switzerland 2021

Awards

Title Year
Best speedtalk at ISEE Young 2021, 18 February 2021 (Alexandra Bürgler): "Beyond Seasonal Suffering: Effects of Pollen on Cardiorespiratory Health, Cognitive Performance and Allergic Symptoms" 2021

Abstract

IntroductionAs the duration and intensity of the pollen season increase due to climate change, allergies to airborne pollen are also increasingly common in Europe. Yet, it is not well recognized that high pollen concentrations may increase respiratory and cardiovascular events, leading to mortality and excess hospitalizations. Moreover, combined exposure to pollen, air pollution and weather conditions could have synergistic effects, that alter the allergenicity of pollen - a research area which has been hardly explored.AimI aim to investigate how short-term exposure to pollen is related to mortality, hospitalization and allergic symptoms, both on its own and synergistically with air pollution and weather. Moreover, in light of increasing allergy prevalence, I aim to study how the relationship between pollen and health has developed over the study period, and which subpopulations might be most at risk. MethodsI will develop spatiotemporal exposure models of pollen for the years 2003-2022 based on a network of 14 pollen measurements stations in Switzerland. These maps will allow me to attribute individual exposure to pollen, air pollution and weather by location and by day, and will be used as the exposure metric for the health analyses. For the health endpoints, I will use large, real-world datasets without selection bias: individual cause-specific mortality is available from the Swiss National Cohort (2003-2018) and hospital admissions from the hospital admission database of the Federal Office of Statistics. Taking advantage of the efficient case-crossover study design, I will investigate the population effects of pollen on daily respiratory and cardiovascular mortality and hospitalization, accounting for air pollution and weather as time-varying confounders. I will investigate: trends in how pollen affected each outcome over the last 16-year study period; identify potential interactions with air pollution or weather; and explore the effect modifiers age, sex and urban/rural residence.To explore individual sensitivity, I will study repeated accounts of self-reported symptoms from the “e-symptoms” app, launched in 2012 by aha! Swiss Allergy Centre and CK-care. Using random forests machine learning techniques, I will analyze the user base’s symptom severity reports in relation to actual prevalent pollen, air pollution and weather triggers, and the diagnosed allergies they indicate. The trained model will allow me to predict personalized symptom severity for future days based on pollen forecasts and provide personalized prevention recommendations and thus enhance quality of life for the allergic population. Ultimately, as a single user contributes more symptom reports, I will be able to gradually improve their personalized symptom prediction based on their personal sensitivity, which is derived from their previous reports. Data collection is already ongoing, and will continue throughout the study until 2022.SignificanceThis highly innovative project utilizes available nationwide health datasets and a systematic smartphone-based data collection method, to better understand the role of pollen in self-reported symptoms, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases at both personalized and population levels. This study will add substantially to the small body of scientific evidence that airborne pollen is adversely related to severe health effects such as mortality and hospitalizations. The project will prevent and reduce health effects due to pollen, which constitute a large burden on health and economy. This is particularly relevant in light of the increasing prevalence of allergies and the earlier start to and lengthening of the pollen season.
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