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AGH Study Shows High Rates of Poorly Controlled Asthma Among Inner-City Pittsburgh Children

Second study shows connection between Vitamin D deficiency and asthma

Pittsburgh, PA (Vocus) March 2, 2010 -- Screenings of inner-city Pittsburgh children show an alarming number of young asthmatics with poor disease control, as well as a high rate of children with potential asthma who are not being diagnosed or treated, according to a study led by researchers at Allegheny General Hospital and Duquesne University.

Results of the study by David Skoner, MD, Deborah Gentile, MD, and Jennifer Koehrsen, MS, of Allegheny General Hospital’s Division of Allergy and Immunology, and Jennifer Padden, PharmD, of the Duquesne University School of Pharmacy, will be presented Sunday at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology 2010 annual meeting in New Orleans Feb. 26-March 2.

A second AGH study presented at the conference suggests that decreased levels of Vitamin D among asthmatic children ages 6 to 12 may exacerbate the disease and point to the possibility of future dietary interventions to help better manage the condition.

The study of 69 children enrolled in an after-school program at a church in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, measured their height, weight and lung function and evaluated them for the presence of asthma and its control.

Of the 24 percent of children with known asthma, 82 percent had poorly controlled asthma, the researchers found. In addition, nearly half of the children with no asthma diagnosis failed the asthma screening test, indicating the need for further evaluation and possible treatment.

About half the study participants had normal body-mass index (BMI) while half were either overweight or obese, pointing to another significant problem in this at-risk population.

“The prevalence of asthma and obesity in this population is alarming and cause for concern,” said Dr. Skoner, Director of the AGH Division of Allergy and Immunology. “Even more alarming is that more than 80 percent of known asthmatics in the study had poor disease control.”

The high rate of screening failures for asthma is another cause for concern, said Dr. Skoner, as it represents children who need further evaluation and possibly treatment.

“Community-based interventions are needed to improve health outcomes in this at-risk population of inner-city youngsters,” he added.

In the Vitamin D study, the AGH researchers, led by Dr. Gentile, examined Vitamin D levels in 20 children with allergic rhinitis and asthma, 20 with allergic rhinitis and 20 with neither disease.

Vitamin D deficiency has been implicated as a potential factor in the development and expression of pediatric asthma.

The researchers found the most-reduced Vitamin D levels in children with both allergic rhinitis and asthma, while children with only allergic rhinitis also showed lower Vitamin D levels compared to those children with neither disease.

“While these results support the hypothesis that Vitamin D levels are compromised in children with asthma, further study is needed to gain a better understanding of how pediatric asthma develops and whether we will someday be able to use dietary interventions to ease symptoms,” said Dr. Gentile, Director of Research in AGH’s Division of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Other AGH researchers involved in the study were Dr. Skoner, Director of the Division of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology; Asha Patel, MS, Research Associate, and Ms. Koehrsen, MS, Coordinator of Research.

Stephanie Waite
(412) 330-4434


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