European Respiratory Society

International ERS/ATS guidelines on definition, evaluation and treatment of severe asthma

Kian Fan Chung, Sally E. Wenzel, Jan L. Brozek, Andrew Bush, Mario Castro, Peter J. Sterk, Ian M. Adcock, Eric D. Bateman, Elisabeth H. Bel, Eugene R. Bleecker, Louis-Philippe Boulet, Christopher Brightling, Pascal Chanez, Sven-Erik Dahlen, Ratko Djukanovic, Urs Frey, Mina Gaga, Peter Gibson, Qutayba Hamid, Nizar N. Jajour, Thais Mauad, Ronald L. Sorkness, W. Gerald Teague


Severe or therapy-resistant asthma is increasingly recognised as a major unmet need. A Task Force, supported by the European Respiratory Society and American Thoracic Society, reviewed the definition and provided recommendations and guidelines on the evaluation and treatment of severe asthma in children and adults.

A literature review was performed, followed by discussion by an expert committee according to the GRADE (Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation) approach for development of specific clinical recommendations.

When the diagnosis of asthma is confirmed and comorbidities addressed, severe asthma is defined as asthma that requires treatment with high dose inhaled corticosteroids plus a second controller and/or systemic corticosteroids to prevent it from becoming “uncontrolled” or that remains “uncontrolled” despite this therapy. Severe asthma is a heterogeneous condition consisting of phenotypes such as eosinophilic asthma. Specific recommendations on the use of sputum eosinophil count and exhaled nitric oxide to guide therapy, as well as treatment with anti-IgE antibody, methotrexate, macrolide antibiotics, antifungal agents and bronchial thermoplasty are provided.

Coordinated research efforts for improved phenotyping will provide safe and effective biomarker-driven approaches to severe asthma therapy.


ERS/ATS guidelines revise the definition of severe asthma, discuss phenotypes and provide guidance on patient management


  • Received November 19, 2013.
  • Accepted November 26, 2013.
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