In summary, bacterial organisms are clinically relevant contributors to asthma exacerbations, and have received much less attention than viruses in this process. Streptococcus pneumoniae, Hemophilus influenzae, and Moraxella catarrhalis have been linked to asthma exacerbations, particularly when sinusitis is present. Treatment therefore should be directed toward these organisms if a bacterial cause is suspected. The atypical bacteria--specifically, C. pneumoniae and M. pneumoniae--deserve special attention. Data suggest a link between these organisms and the exacerbation of asthma, as well as suggest that these organisms may be causative in asthma development. The existing data are not conclusive, but are suggestive enough to drive studies evaluating them as a possible mechanism in asthma pathogenesis. An animal model evaluating M. pneumoniae and C. pneumoniae would be ideal, but at present no model exists in which chronic infection with these organisms results in bronchial hyperresponsiveness. There is active work in this area, however. Alternative investigations include continued evaluation of these organisms by several modalities, including culture, serology, and PCR, along with evaluation of the host response. Many questions remain, but the ground is fertile for continued investigation.
Health disparities, defined as a significant difference in health between populations, are more common for diseases of the respiratory system than for those of other organ systems, because of the environmental influence on breathing and the variation of the environment among different segments of the population. The lowest social groups are up to 14 times more likely to have respiratory diseases than are the highest. Tobacco smoke, air pollution, environmental exposures, and occupational hazards affect the lungs more than other organs and occur disproportionately in ethnic minorities and those with lower socioeconomic status. Lack of access to quality healthcare contributes to disparities. The executive committees of the American Thoracic Society (ATS) and European Respiratory Society (ERS) established a writing committee to develop a policy on health disparities. The document was reviewed, edited, and approved by their full executive committees and boards of directors of the societies. This document expresses a policy to address health disparities by promoting scientific inquiry and training, disseminating medical information and best practices, and monitoring and advocating for public respiratory health. The ERS and the ATS have strong international commitments and work with leaders from governments, academia, and other organisational bodies to address and reduce avoidable health inequalities. Their training initiatives improve the function of healthcare systems and health equality. Both the ATS and the ERS support all aspects of this document, confer regularly, and act together when possible, but the activities to bring about change may vary because of the differences in the continents where the two organisations carry out most of their activities. The ATS and ERS pledge to frame their actions to reduce respiratory health disparities. The vision of the ATS and ERS is that all persons attain better and sustained respiratory health. They call on all their members and other societies to join in this commitment.
One-quarter to one-third of individuals with asthma smoke, which may affect response to therapy and contribute to poor asthma control.
Asthma is a heterogeneous disorder of unknown etiology that manifests as recurrent episodes of coughing, wheezing, and breathlessness. These symptoms are often debilitating and exacerbations usually are unexpected, resulting in work or school absences, limitations in activity, reduced quality of life, and personal and economic hardships. Over the past several decades, a great deal has been learned about asthma pathophysiology, and currently available therapies have revolutionized asthma treatment. However, asthma remains a global public health problem, and the hope is that newer therapies targeting specific biological mediators of asthma, particularly antibody-mediated therapies, offer exciting new modes to the control of this disease. We will review some of these therapies, with the majority of attention devoted to anti-IgE therapy which has been approved for treatment of adult and childhood asthma by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since 2003.