Nitric Oxide correlates increased risk of asthma

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A study published in the European Respiratory Journal by researchers from the Keck School of Medicine of University of California (USC) have established a link between exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO) and an increased risk of asthma in children, especially for those whose parents do not have asthma. The study was called “Exhaled Nitric Oxide, Susceptibility and New-Onset Asthma in the Children’s Health Study.”

Researchers have long known that children with asthma have had increased levels of FeNO but have had the chance to study healthy children ahead of time to see if the correlation is really there. Using data from the Children’s Health Study (CHS) in 2004, researchers studied 2,206 health children and followed their health between 2004 and 2007 with an annual questionnaire. Lead author, doctoral student Tracy Bastain, M.P.H. states, “We believe this is the first study to demonstrate the predictive value of FeNO for identifying children who are at risk for developing asthma.”

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FeNO is a gas that is made in the inner wall of lungs’ airways from the cells. While researchers know that the prevalence of childhood onset asthma has grown, causes for that prevalence are not known fully. Now, researchers show that children with the highest levels of FeNo were two times as likely to develop asthma as those children with the lowest levels of FeNO, particularly when the children’s parents’ family history has not had asthma.

This study is a step in the direction of preventing asthma but many studies remain to be done. Further, an additional study will need to be conducted to see if these results can have a clinical application.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Hastings Foundation. The Children’s Health Study is the longest running study on epidemiology for environmental effects to respiratory health in children. There are approximately 7-9 million children in the United States with asthma out of the total 20 million who have asthma.

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