In the present study we evaluated the impact of a program of psychosocial intervention (PSI) on the immunological status and the clinical management of a group of asthmatic children of an island population in Venezuela. We studied a total of 35 asthmatic children who belonged to either a PSI group (19 patients) or a control group (16 patients), both of which received conventional antiasthmatic treatment. The PSI group received, in addition, a 6-month psychosocial intervention program which included relaxation, guided imagery, and self-esteem workshops. During the PSI period, the number of asthmatic episodes and the use of bronchodilator medication were significantly reduced, and pulmonary function was significantly improved, compared to the 6 months before intervention. There was also a significant reduction in the specific IgE responses against the most important allergen in these children, the intestinal parasite Ascaris lumbricoides. PSI resulted in a significant increase of NK cells, an augmented expression of the T-cell receptor for IL-2, and a significant decrease of leukocytes with low affinity receptors for IgE. In fact, these surface markers became similar to those of nonasthmatic children from both Coche Island and the mainland. None of these clinical or immunological changes were seen in the control group of asthmatics who did not undergo PSI. These results are consistent with the possibility that PSI induces immunological alterations that are responsible for the clinical and physiological improvements observed in the study group.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.