News ID: 175256
Published: 0214 GMT January 07, 2017

Why is asthma worse in black patients?

Why is asthma worse in black patients?

African Americans may be less responsive to asthma treatment and more likely to die from the condition, in part, because they have a unique type of airway inflammation, a study led by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine revealed.

According to, Dr. Sharmilee Nyenhuis, assistant professor of medicine at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and corresponding author on the study, said, “Airway inflammation is a key component of asthma, and innovations in treatment are becoming more personalized based on the specific type of airway inflammation in a patient.

"Emerging evidence suggests that differences in airway inflammation can affect a patient's response to treatment, but whether the patterns of airway inflammation vary across race has, until now, been very unclear.”

Black men and women are two to three times more likely than whites to be hospitalized or die from asthma.

And while many factors contribute to the burden of asthma in African Americans — such as access to health care and environmental exposures — rates are disproportionate even when social and environmental elements are taken into account.

Nyenhuis and her colleagues performed a secondary analysis of more than 1,000 sputum samples obtained from AsthmaNet — a nationwide clinical research network created by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, and the Asthma Clinical Research Network.

Samples of the coughed-up fluids were from past clinical trial participants over the age of 12 with mild or moderate persistent asthma and who had not smoked within the last year.

The samples were tested for the presence of eosinophils — a type of white blood cell.

The study is one of the largest and most diverse trials conducted in the US on race and asthma, with 26 percent of the patients self-identifying as African American.

Researchers found that black patients were more likely to exhibit eosinophilic airway inflammation than whites, despite taking comparable doses of asthma medication, such as inhaled corticosteroids.

Nyenhuis said, "Our finding of higher numbers of African Americans with this type of airway inflammatory pattern suggests a mechanism that may account for more severe and difficult to control asthma in African Americans.”

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