The march towards asthma from infancy to adulthood
The risk of developing asthma among children who have early childhood allergies, particularly eczema, has been the topic of intense research within cohort studies spanning childhood. The picture surrounding whether childhood eczema predicts adult asthma is less clear, in part due to the rarity of a longitudinal study spanning childhood to adulthood.
In a study published in the April 2011 issue of The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunlogy (JACI), Martin et al examine the natural history of asthma development among participants in the Tasmanian Longitudinal Health Study, who were first sampled in 1968 at age 7 years, and followed up recently at age 44 years. Their findings reflect what allergists have long suspected- children with eczema, particularly in combination with hayfever, are at a greatly increased risk of developing atopic asthma that persists into adulthood. Importantly, childhood eczema was not associated with non-atopic asthma, adding to the growing understanding of the heterogeneity of adult asthma.
These new developments will provide greater scope for clinicians to advise young patients and their parents of what to expect in the years following childhood eczema and hayfever diagnoses. Additionally, these longitudinal data provide rationale to seek new interventions (or appraisal of current treatments) targeting eczema in childhood, with the aim of assessing whether the march towards asthma can be prevented.
The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI) is the official scientific journal of the AAAAI, and is the most-cited journal in the field of allergy and clinical immunology.