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Diagnosis for Asthma

Is there a Better Method to Diagnose Asthma?

Previously, it was thought that two different methods of testing actually revealed the same type of asthmatic condition. However, a new Swedish research study, published in the October 2013 issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, indicates that these diagnostic measures actually show two separate inflammatory processes in asthma. By utilizing the two tests in combination with each other, there are much better chances of each individual asthma sufferer receiving an appropriate clinical diagnosis and treatment.

Today, a routine clinical method of ascertaining the degree of severity of steroid sensitive airway inflammation in asthma patients is by using measurements of exhaled nitric oxide concentrations. In addition, a blood serum eosinophil granulocytes count is utilized in order to support any asthma diagnosis. As mentioned above, up until now, these two techniques were thought to detect the same inflammatory process within asthmatic patients, typically referred to as "eosinophilic airway inflammation."

Researchers Examine the Significance of Asthma Inflammatory Markers

In this research study, scientists explored the significance of these two inflammatory markers. They accomplished this with the assistance of statistical information obtained from a large database based on the U.S. population known as the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. A total of approximately 12,400 individuals, ranging in age anywhere from 6 to 80 years of age, were included in the study.

Research scientists from the University of Uppsala, Sweden were able to establish that the relationship between nitric oxide and blood serum eosinophils was actually a very weak association. On the other hand, they noted that simultaneous elevations of the two diagnostic markers, working together but still independently, increased the chances of receiving reports of various asthmatic symptoms and/or acute exacerbations of asthma in the year before the start of this study.

The Link between Nitric Oxide and Asthma Symptoms

Study findings revealed that asthma and wheezing symptoms were three times more likely to occur among the study participants who had high levels of exhaled nitric oxide as compared to those subjects who had values in the normal range. The occurrence of asthma and wheezing symptoms was much the same in study participants who possessed high blood eosinophil values as well. Previously, many other research studies found similar relationships between the two markers individually. However, these researchers do not think that any earlier research has assessed the actual predictable value of eosinophil markers and the measurements of exhaled nitric oxide when the two factors are added together.

In this particular study, the nitric oxide and blood eosinophil correlation had a small value of around 4 percent. This finding is similar to other earlier reports of the weak to moderate degrees of correlation between nitric oxide levels and eosinophil values in both blood and sputum. The aforementioned weak correlation, coupled with the apparent additive effect of these two markers on asthma risk, wheezing and the occurrence of acute asthma attacks, clearly indicates that these markers represent two different inflammatory processes with distinct trigger mechanisms.


The scientists involved in this research study strongly recommend that these two measurements be tested in combination with each other to understand more clearly the inflammatory pathway that takes place in asthmatic patients. Both of these measures would provide valuable information in the appropriate selection of clinical treatment strategies among patients who suffer from asthma.


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