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Thursday, December 1, 2011

The search for reliable predictors for developing asthma

In the context of the increasing prevalence and public health burden of asthma, reliable predictors of asthma development are being sought in order to prevent or mitigate the impact of the disease. Recent research findings of the asthma risk predictive value of infant-onset eczema combined with presence of filaggrin (FLG) null mutation and food sensitization are very promising. This month’s issue presents a report by Filipiak-Pittroff and colleagues (J Allergy Clin Immunol 2011;128:1235-1241.e5), on behalf of 2 large European birth cohort studies of nutritional and environmental factors in the development of allergic diseases, in which they sought to validate the eczema+FLG+food allergy predictors and to determine if the combination was useful in predicting persistent eczema.

Filipiak-Pittroff et al. assembled a dataset of almost 300 children with infant-onset eczema and known FLG and food allergy status and retrospectively examined the relation of these conditions with the presence of asthma and persistent eczema at age 10. The authors report that all three factors are risk factors for asthma, and their combination is highly specific, but not sensitive, for predicting asthma. This finding implies that a prediction cannot be made with sufficient confidence based on these criteria only, since there might be many false negatives, i.e. many children at risk for asthma development would not be identified correctly.

Thus, their findings did not corroborate previous research suggesting a nearly 100% predictive value for asthma development for the combined presence of early eczema, food allergy, and FLG null mutation, and shows that for a precise prediction of asthma more than these three variables are needed.

Filipiak-Pittroff et al. conclude that their results underscore the complex presentation of atopic diseases and reinforce the need to identify reliable methods for prediction.

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