Asthma control and exacerbations: two different sides of the same coin. two different sides of the same coin

Liam G Heaney, Rob Brisk

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose of review: Optimal asthma management includes both the control of asthma symptoms and reducing the risk of future asthma exacerbations. Traditionally, treatment has been adjusted largely on the basis of symptoms and lung function and for many patients, this approach delivers both excellent symptom control and reduced risk. However, the relationship between these two key components of the disease may vary between different asthmatic phenotypes and disease severities and there is increasing recognition of the need for more individualized treatment approaches.

Recent findings: A number of factors which predict exacerbation risk have been identified including demographic and behavioural features and specific inflammatory biomarkers. Type-2 cytokine-driven eosinophilic airways inflammation predisposes to frequent exacerbations and predicts response to corticosteroids, and the usefulness of sputum eosinophilia as both a marker of exacerbation risk and biomarker for adjustment of corticosteroid treatment has been established for some time. However, attempts to develop surrogate markers, which would be more straightforward to deliver in the clinic, have been challenging.

Summary: Some patients with asthma have persistent symptoms in the absence of type-2 cytokine driven-eosinophilic airways inflammation due to noncorticosteroid responsive mechanisms (T2-low disease). Composite biomarker strategies using easily measured surrogate indicators of type-2 inflammation (such as fractional exhaled nitric oxide, blood eosinophil count and serum periostin levels) may predict exacerbation risk better but it is unclear if they can be used to adjust corticosteroid treatment. Biomarkers will be used to target novel biologic treatments but additionally may be used to optimize corticosteroid treatment dose and act as prognostics for exacerbation risk and potentially other important longer term asthma outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-37
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Opinon in Pulmonary Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2016


  • Asthma
  • stratified medicine


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