, Volume 4, Issue 5, pp 309-316
Date: 23 Aug 2012

Biomarkers Predicting Response to Corticosteroid Therapy in Asthma

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Abstract

International guidelines on the management of asthma support the early introduction of corticosteroids to control symptoms and to improve lung function by reducing airway inflammation. However, not all individuals respond to corticosteroids to the same extent and it would be an advantage to be able to predict the response to corticosteroid treatment. Several biomarkers have been assessed following treatment with corticosteroids including measures of lung function, peripheral blood and sputum indices of inflammation, exhaled gases and breath condensates. The most widely examined measures in predicting a response to corticosteroids are airway hyperresponsiveness, exhaled nitric oxide (eNO) and induced sputum. Of these, sputum eosinophilia has been demonstrated to be the best predictor of a short-term response to corticosteroids. More importantly, directing treatment at normalizing the sputum eosinophil count can substantially reduce severe exacerbations. The widespread utilization of sputum induction is hampered because the procedure is relatively labor intensive. The measurement of eNO is simpler, but incorporating the assessment of NO in an asthma management strategy has not led to a reduction in exacerbation rates. The challenge now is to either simplify the measurement of a sputum eosinophilia or to identify another inflammatory marker with a similar efficacy as the sputum eosinophil count in predicting both the short- and long-term responses to corticosteroids.