Monday, October 7, 2013
Exhaled NO levels and blood eosinophil counts independently associate with wheeze and asthma events
Eosinophils and exhaled Nitric Oxide (NO) levels are prominent features of asthma. It is known that both exhaled NO and blood eosinophil counts (B-Eos) are markers of local and systemic eosinophil inflammation respectively, and are elevated in patients with the disease. However, little is known about the association of these markers with wheeze and asthma events. Malinovschi et al [J Allergy Clin Immunol 2013; 132(4):821-827] examined subjects from National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2007-2008 and 2009-2010 to determine individual and independent B-Eos and Fraction of Exhaled Nitric Oxide (FENO) levels in relation to wheeze, asthma diagnosis, and asthma events.
From the cross sectional study, 12,408 subjects ranging from 6-80 years old were selected who had FENO measurements and blood differential counts. The authors report that the prevalence of current asthma and wheeze increased progressively with FENO values and B-Eos values. Furthermore, there was an increase in asthma attacks and asthma related ED visits which associated with an increase in both FENO and B-Eos respectively. While intermediate or high FENO and B-Eos levels were independently associated with having asthma, wheeze, and asthma attacks, only the B-Eos values were independently associated with asthma-related ED visits.
Malinovschi explains that these 2 markers cannot be used interchangeably but rather in combination due to the finding that the correlation between the markers is weak. This indicates that they represent 2 different inflammatory pathways with separate trigger mechanisms, contrary to previous thought. The B-Eos levels associated with asthma-related ED visits, which is in-line with recent findings that eosinophilic asthma patients receiving anti-IL-5 treatment have a reduction in severe asthma symptoms. Whereas FENO values appear to precede moderate but not severe asthma exacerbations and signal local IL-4/IL-13 mediated mechanisms in bronchial mucosa that are triggered by aeroallergen exposure.
The authors conclude that both local and systemic Th2 cytokine-driven mechanisms, partly with different triggers, are involved in eosinophilic asthma, suggesting a double-hit mechanism for the development of respiratory symptoms and asthma. The clinical significance of assessing both of these components for individualizing treatment warrants further study.