May 15, 2017

Sensitization to Aspergillus species is associated with frequent exacerbations in severe asthma

1Department of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Singapore General Hospital, 2Duke-National University of Singapore Medical School, 3Allergy Centre, Singapore General Hospital, 4Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science, National University of Singapore, 5Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

*These authors contributed equally to this work

Background: Severe asthma is a largely heterogeneous disease with varying phenotypic profiles. The relationship between specific allergen sensitization and asthma severity, particularly in Asia, remains unclear. We aim to study the prevalence of specific allergen sensitization patterns and investigate their association with outcomes in a severe asthma cohort in an Asian setting.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study of patients receiving step 4 or 5 Global Initiative for Asthma treatment. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed to assess the association between sensitization to a specific identifiable allergen by skin prick test (SPT) and uncontrolled asthma (defined in our study as the use of ≥2 steroid bursts or hospitalization in the past year, a history of near-fatal asthma or evidence of airflow obstruction on spirometry).
 Two hundred and six severe asthma patients (mean age 45±17 years, 99 [48.1%] male) were evaluated. Of them, 78.2% had a positive SPT to one or more allergens. The most common allergen to which patients were sensitized was house dust mites (Blomia tropicalisDermatophagoides pteronyssinus and Dermatophagoides farinae). Also, 11.7% were sensitized to Aspergillus species. On multivariate analysis, Aspergillus sensitization was associated with uncontrolled asthma (odds ratio 6.07, 95% confidence interval 1.80–20.51). In particular, Aspergillus sensitization was independently associated with the use of ≥2 steroid bursts in the past year (odds ratio 3.05, 95% confidence interval 1.04–8.95). No similar associations of uncontrolled asthma with sensitization to any other allergens were found.
Conclusion: High allergen, specifically Aspergillus sensitization was observed in the Asian population with severe asthma by SPT. Aspergillus sensitization was specifically associated with frequent exacerbations and a greater corticosteroid requirement. An improved understanding of the severe asthma with Aspergillus sensitization phenotype is warranted, which is likely a subgroup of severe asthma with fungal sensitization.

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