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Do Blacks Have Genetic Weakness to Asthma?
Date:9/30/2007

Study suggestion questioned by experts

SUNDAY, Sept. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Black Americans who have asthma are much more likely to visit emergency rooms or be hospitalized for the condition than their white counterparts.

That's the finding of a new study that reaches the controversial conclusion that "these findings suggest that genetic differences may underlie these racial disparities."

However, that genetics theory was quickly challenged by some experts in the field.

Previous studies have shown that black people with asthma have worse control of their symptoms and higher rates of hospitalization and death than whites, said the authors of the new study, who noted that adjustments for socioeconomic status have not explained the disparities.

The researchers, from the University of California, San Francisco, studied 678 people -- 524 white and 154 black -- who were being treated for asthma under a large health-care plan and were hospitalized between 2000 and 2004. All were interviewed at the time of hospital discharge about their health status and socioeconomic status, with U.S. Census data used to reinforce their socioeconomic information.

In a follow-up period that averaged 1.9 years, 35.7 percent of the blacks visited emergency rooms for asthma symptoms, compared to 21 percent of the whites. The hospitalization rate was 26.6 percent for the blacks, versus 15.3 percent for the whites.

"Even in a health-care setting that provides uniform access to care, black race was associated with worse asthma outcomes," and genetics could be the difference, said the researchers, who published their findings in the Sept. 24 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

But the reality is not that simple, said Dr. Lauren Smith, an associate professor of pediatrics at Boston University. She led a larger study two years ago that found that socioeconomics played a big role in asthma mana
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