Background: Exhaled nitric oxide (eNO) has attracted increasing interest as a non-invasive marker of airway inflammation in asthma. However, little evidence exists on the influences exerted on eNO by the interrelations among atopic status, asthma and rhinitis.
Methods: Among the 1156 children who participated in a large-scale epidemiological survey on asthma and allergies (ISAAC II: International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood Phase II) in the city of Clermont-Ferrand, 53 asthmatics without corticosteroid treatment and 96 non-asthmatics were invited to perform eNO and skin prick tests (SPTs) to 12 common allergens.
Results: Atopic asthmatic children had higher eNO than non-atopic asthmatic children (28.9+/-9.1 vs. 17.1+/-13.1 p.p.b.; P=0.0004) with a significant increase when one SPT or more are positive (26.5+/-7.8 vs. 17.1+/-13.1 p.p.b.; P=0.03). Similarly, non-asthmatic, atopic subjects had higher eNO than non-atopic subjects with a significant increase when two SPTs or more are positive (19.4+/-9.8 vs. 11.7 +/-6.7 p.p.b.; P=0.003). In the case of equal levels of positive SPTs (0, 1, >/=2), asthmatic children always had higher eNO than non-asthmatic ones. Furthermore, among non-asthmatic children, the eNO level increased only in atopics who had rhinitis (20.7+/-13 vs. 12.5+/-6.4 p.p.b. in atopic controls (subjects without rhinitis and asthma) and 12.3+/-6.6 p.p.b. in non-atopic controls; P=0.001), whereas among asthmatic children, eNO level increased in atopics independently of rhinitis (28.2+/-9.5 p.p.b. in those with rhinitis and 30.9+/-8.1 p.p.b. in those without) as well as in non-atopics with rhinitis (22.5+/-17.2 p.p.b.).
Conclusions: Our data suggest that besides atopy and asthma, allergic rhinitis should also be taken into account in the assessment of eNO.