A substantial body of evidence suggests an etiologic role of inflammation and oxidative/nitrosative stress in asthma pathogenesis. Fractional concentration of nitric oxide in exhaled air (FeNO) may provide a non-invasive marker of oxidative/nitrosative stress and aspects of airway inflammation. We examined whether children with elevated FeNO are at increased risk for new-onset asthma.
We prospectively followed 2206 asthma-free children (age 7–10 years) who participated in the Children's Health Study. We measured FeNO and followed these children for three years to ascertain incident asthma cases. Cox proportional hazard models were fitted to examine the association between FeNO and new-onset asthma.
We found that FeNO was associated with increased risk of new-onset asthma. Children with the highest quartile of FeNO had more than a two-fold increased risk of new-onset asthma compared to those with the lowest quartile (hazard ratio: 2.1; 95% confidence interval: 1.3–3.5). This effect did not vary by child's history of respiratory allergic symptoms. However, the effect of elevated FeNO on new-onset asthma was most apparent among those without a parental history of asthma.
Our results indicate that children with elevated FeNO are at increased risk for new-onset asthma, especially if they have no parental history of asthma.