Research article – OPEN ACCESS – Open Peer Review
Asthma is a heterogeneous disease and understanding this heterogeneity will enable the realisation of precision medicine. We sought to compare the sputum and serum inflammatory profiles in moderate-to-severe asthma during stable disease and exacerbation events.
We recruited 102 adults and 34 children with asthma. The adults were assessed at baseline, 3, 6, and 12-month follow-up visits. Thirty-seven subjects were assessed at onset of severe exacerbation. Forty sputum mediators and 43 serum mediators were measured. Receiver-operator characteristic (ROC) curves were constructed to identify mediators that distinguish between stable disease and exacerbation events. The strongest discriminating sputum mediators in the adults were validated in the children.
The mediators that were significantly increased at exacerbations versus stable disease and by ≥1.5-fold were sputum IL-1β, IL-6, IL-6R, IL-18, CXCL9, CXCL10, CCL5, TNFα, TNF-R1, TNF-R2, and CHTR and serum CXCL11. No mediators decreased ≥1.5-fold at exacerbation. The strongest discriminators of an exacerbation in adults (ROC area under the curve [AUC]) were sputum TNF-R2 0.69 (95% CI: 0.60 to 0.78) and IL-6R 0.68 (95% CI: 0.58 to 0.78). Sputum TNF-R2 and IL-6R were also discriminatory in children (ROC AUC 0.85 [95% CI: 0.71 to 0.99] and 0.80 [0.64 to 0.96] respectively).
Severe asthma exacerbations are associated with increased pro-inflammatory and Type 1 (T1) immune mediators. In adults, sputum TNF-R2 and IL-6R were the strongest discriminators of an exacerbation, which were verified in children.