We investigated whether the previously reported preventive effect of maternal ω-3 fatty acid supplementation on IgE-associated allergic disease in infancy may be mediated by facilitating a balanced circulating Th2/Th1 chemokine profile in the infant. Vaccine-induced immune responses at 2 y of age were also evaluated.

Pregnant women, at risk of having an allergic infant, were randomized to daily supplementation with 1.6 g eicosapentaenoic acid and 1.1 g docosahexaenoic acid or placebo from the 25th gestational week through 3.5 mo of breastfeeding. Infant plasma was analyzed for chemokines (cord blood, 3, 12, 24 mo) and anti-tetanus and anti-diphtheria IgG (24 mo).

High Th2-associated CC-chemokine ligand 17 (CCL17) levels were associated with infant allergic disease (p < 0.05). In infants without, but not with, maternal history of allergy, the ω-3 supplementation was related to lower CCL17/CXC-chemokine ligand 11 (CXCL11) (Th2/Th1) ratios (p < 0.05). Furthermore, in nonallergic, but not in allergic infants, ω-3 supplementation was linked with higher Th1-associated CXCL11 levels (p < 0.05), as well as increased IgG titers to diphtheria (p = 0.01) and tetanus (p = 0.05) toxins.

Thus, the prospect of balancing the infant immune system toward a less Th2-dominated response, by maternal ω-3 fatty acid supplementation, seems to be influenced by allergic status.