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      Tailoring asthma treatment on eosinophilic markers (exhaled nitric oxide or sputum eosinophils): a systematic review and meta-analysis

      , , ,

      Thorax

      BMJ

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          Abstract

          Background

          Asthma guidelines guide health practitioners to adjust treatments to the minimum level required for asthma control. As many people with asthma have an eosinophilic endotype, tailoring asthma medications based on airway eosinophilic levels (sputum eosinophils or exhaled nitric oxide, FeNO) may improve asthma outcomes.

          Objective

          To synthesise the evidence from our updated Cochrane systematic reviews, for tailoring asthma medication based on eosinophilic inflammatory markers (sputum analysis and FeNO) for improving asthma-related outcomes in children and adults.

          Data sources

          Cochrane reviews with standardised searches up to February 2017.

          Study selection

          The Cochrane reviews included randomised controlled comparisons of tailoring asthma medications based on sputum analysis or FeNO compared with controls (primarily clinical symptoms and/or spirometry/peak flow).

          Results

          The 16 included studies of FeNO-based management (seven in adults) and 6 of sputum-based management (five in adults) were clinically heterogeneous. On follow-up, participants randomised to the sputum eosinophils strategy (compared with controls) were significantly less likely to have exacerbations (62 vs 82/100 participants with ≥1 exacerbation; OR 0.36, 95% CI 0.21 to 0.62). For the FeNO strategy, the respective numbers were adults OR 0.60 (95% CI 0.43 to 0.84) and children 0.58 (95% CI 0.45 to 0.75). However, there were no significant group differences for either strategy on daily inhaled corticosteroids dose (at end of study), asthma control or lung function.

          Conclusion

          Adjusting treatment based on airway eosinophilic markers reduced the likelihood of asthma exacerbations but had no significant impact on asthma control or lung function.

          Related collections

          Most cited references 27

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          Asthma exacerbations and sputum eosinophil counts: a randomised controlled trial.

          Treatment decisions in asthma are based on assessments of symptoms and simple measures of lung function, which do not relate closely to underlying eosinophilic airway inflammation. We aimed to assess whether a management strategy that minimises eosinophilic inflammation reduces asthma exacerbations compared with a standard management strategy. We recruited 74 patients with moderate to severe asthma from hospital clinics and randomly allocated them to management either by standard British Thoracic Society asthma guidelines (BTS management group) or by normalisation of the induced sputum eosinophil count and reduction of symptoms (sputum management group). We assessed patients nine times over 12 months. The results were used to manage those in the sputum management group, but were not disclosed in the BTS group. The primary outcomes were the number of severe exacerbations and control of eosinophilic inflammation, measured by induced sputum eosinophil count. Analyses were by intention to treat. The sputum eosinophil count was 63% (95% CI 24-100) lower over 12 months in the sputum management group than in the BTS management group (p=0.002). Patients in the sputum management group had significantly fewer severe asthma exacerbations than did patients in the BTS management group (35 vs 109; p=0.01) and significantly fewer patients were admitted to hospital with asthma (one vs six, p=0.047). The average daily dose of inhaled or oral corticosteroids did not differ between the two groups. A treatment strategy directed at normalisation of the induced sputum eosinophil count reduces asthma exacerbations and admissions without the need for additional anti-inflammatory treatment.
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            Non-eosinophilic asthma: importance and possible mechanisms.

            There is increasing evidence that inflammatory mechanisms other than eosinophilic inflammation may be involved in producing the final common pathway of enhanced bronchial reactivity and reversible airflow obstruction that characterises asthma. A review of the literature has shown that, at most, only 50% of asthma cases are attributable to eosinophilic airway inflammation. It is hypothesised that a major proportion of asthma is based on neutrophilic airway inflammation, possibly triggered by environmental exposure to bacterial endotoxin, particulate air pollution, and ozone, as well as viral infections. If there are indeed two (or more) subtypes of asthma, and if non-eosinophilic (neutrophil mediated) asthma is relatively common, this would have major consequences for the treatment and prevention of asthma since most treatment and prevention strategies are now almost entirely focused on allergic/eosinophilic asthma and allergen avoidance measures, respectively. It is therefore important to study the aetiology of asthma further, including the underlying inflammatory profiles.
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              Use of exhaled nitric oxide measurements to guide treatment in chronic asthma.

              International guidelines for the treatment of asthma recommend adjusting the dose of inhaled corticosteroids on the basis of symptoms, bronchodilator requirements, and the results of pulmonary-function tests. Measurements of the fraction of exhaled nitric oxide (FE(NO)) constitute a noninvasive marker that may be a useful alternative for the adjustment of inhaled-corticosteroid treatment. In a single-blind, placebo-controlled trial, we randomly assigned 97 patients with asthma who had been regularly receiving treatment with inhaled corticosteroids to have their corticosteroid dose adjusted, in a stepwise fashion, on the basis of either FE(NO) measurements or an algorithm based on conventional guidelines. After the optimal dose was determined (phase 1), patients were followed up for 12 months (phase 2). The primary outcome was the frequency of exacerbations of asthma; the secondary outcome was the mean daily dose of inhaled corticosteroid. Forty-six patients in the FE(NO) group and 48 in the group whose asthma was treated according to conventional guidelines (the control group) completed the study. The final mean daily doses of fluticasone, the inhaled corticosteroid that was used, were 370 microg per day for the FE(NO) group (95 percent confidence interval, 263 to 477) and 641 microg per day for the control group (95 percent confidence interval, 526 to 756; P=0.003), a difference of 270 microg per day (95 percent confidence interval, 112 to 430). The rates of exacerbation were 0.49 episode per patient per year in the FE(NO) group (95 percent confidence interval, 0.20 to 0.78) and 0.90 in the control group (95 percent confidence interval, 0.31 to 1.49), representing a nonsignificant reduction of 45.6 percent (95 percent confidence interval for mean difference, -78.6 percent to 54.5 percent) in the FE(NO) group. There were no significant differences in other markers of asthma control, use of oral prednisone, pulmonary function, or levels of airway inflammation (sputum eosinophils). With the use of FE(NO) measurements, maintenance doses of inhaled corticosteroids may be significantly reduced without compromising asthma control. Copyright 2005 Massachusetts Medical Society.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Thorax
                Thorax
                BMJ
                0040-6376
                1468-3296
                November 14 2018
                December 2018
                December 2018
                June 01 2018
                : 73
                : 12
                : 1110-1119
                Article
                10.1136/thoraxjnl-2018-211540
                © 2018

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