Adolescents in clinical remission of atopic asthma have elevated exhaled nitric oxide levels and bronchial hyperresponsiveness

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2000 Sep;162(3 Pt 1):953-7. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm.162.3.9909033.


Symptoms of atopic asthma often decrease or even seem to disappear around puberty. The aim of this study was to investigate whether this so-called clinical remission is accompanied by remission of airway inflammation, since symptoms relapse in a substantial proportion of subjects later in life. To assess indicators of inflammation and/or structural damage of the airways, exhaled nitric oxide (eNO) and bronchial responsiveness to adenosine-5'-monophosphate (AMP) and methacholine (MCh) were determined in 21 subjects in clinical remission of atopic asthma. Clinical remission was defined as complete absence of symptoms of asthma without the use of any medication in the year preceding the study. Results were compared with those of 21 patients with current asthma and 18 healthy control subjects. We found significantly higher eNO values in the remission group than in healthy controls (geometric mean, 18.9 and 1.0 ppb, respectively; p < 0.001) whereas eNO values of the remission group and those of the subjects with current asthma (geometric mean, 21.9 ppb) were similar (p = 0.09). The responsiveness to both AMP and MCh of subjects in clinical remission was significantly higher as compared with responsiveness of healthy controls, and lower than responsiveness of subjects with current asthma. A significant correlation could be established between eNO and responsiveness to AMP, but not between eNO and responsiveness to MCh. The results of this study are suggestive of persistent airway inflammation during clinical remission of atopic asthma. We speculate that subclinical inflammation is a risk factor for asthma relapse later in life, and that eNO and responsiveness to both AMP and MCh can be used as different, noninvasive indices of the inflammatory process of the airways.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Monophosphate
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Asthma / diagnosis
  • Asthma / physiopathology*
  • Breath Tests
  • Bronchi / physiopathology
  • Bronchial Hyperreactivity / diagnosis
  • Bronchial Hyperreactivity / physiopathology*
  • Bronchial Provocation Tests
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methacholine Chloride
  • Nitric Oxide / physiology*
  • Remission, Spontaneous
  • Respiratory Hypersensitivity / diagnosis
  • Respiratory Hypersensitivity / physiopathology*


  • Methacholine Chloride
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Adenosine Monophosphate