Background: Polymorphisms at the glutathione S-transferase (GST) were associated with asthma-related phenotypes. We hypothesized that the GSTP1 and GSTM1 genotypes could modify the effects of household environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) on childhood wheezing illness.
Methods: We conducted a case-control study comprised of 216 lifetime wheezing children and 185 nonwheezing controls, all of whom were selected from 2524 fourth- to ninth-grade school children in southern Taiwan.
Results: Homozygous GSTP1 Ile-105 was significantly associated with current wheezing (OR = 1.78, 95% CI 1.04-3.12), but insignificantly associated with ever wheezing (OR = 1.26, 95% CI 0.82-1.94). The risks of ever or current wheezing on GSTM1 null genotype were positive but not statistically significant. Although household ETS exposure was not associated with wheezing illness, after excluding subjects having in utero ETS or active smoking habits, the adverse effects of household ETS exposure differed significantly by GSTP1-105 genotypes. In children without any ETS exposure at home, GSTP1 Ile-105 homozygosity was significantly related to increased risks for both ever wheezing (OR = 2.29, 95% CI 1.17-4.49) and current wheezing (OR = 4.86, 95% CI 1.86-12.70). In children with household ETS exposure, the risks of wheezing illness did not increase for those carrying two GSTP1 Ile-105 alleles. Children carrying any GSTP1 Val-105 allele were at a significantly greater risk of both ever and current wheezing when exposed to ETS, with a clear dose-response relationship to the number of smokers at home.
Conclusion: Household ETS exposure is a modifiable cause of wheezing illness in a genetically susceptible subpopulation.