Background: beta(2)-adrenergic receptor (AR) agonists are the mainstay of treatment for severe asthma exacerbations, one of the most common causes of critical illness in children. Genotypic differences in the beta(2)-AR gene, particularly at amino acid positions 16 and 27, have been shown to affect the response to beta(2)-AR agonist therapy. Our hypothesis is that genotypic differences contribute to patient response to beta(2)-AR agonist treatment during severe asthma exacerbations in children.
Methods: Children admitted to the hospital ICU for a severe asthma exacerbation between 2002 and 2005 were located, and genetic samples were obtained from saliva. Children hospitalized during this period were treated with a protocol that titrated beta(2)-AR therapy (first nebulized, then IV) according to a validated clinical asthma score.
Results: Thirty-seven children hospitalized during the study period were enrolled into the study. At amino acid position 16 in the beta(2)-AR gene, 13 children were homozygous for the glycine (Gly) allele (Gly/Gly), 8 were homozygous for the arginine (Arg) allele (Arg/Arg), and 16 were heterozygous (Arg/Gly). Despite similar clinical asthma scores on hospital admission, the children with the Gly/Gly genotype had significantly shorter hospital ICU length of stay and duration of continuously nebulized albuterol therapy and were significantly less likely to require IV beta(2)-AR therapy than those with Arg/Arg or Arg/Gly genotypes. No association existed among polymorphisms at amino acid position 27 and response to beta(2)-AR therapy.
Conclusions: In this cohort of children with severe asthma exacerbations, children whose genotypes were homozygous for Gly at amino acid position 16 of the beta(2)-AR gene had a more rapid response to beta(2)-AR agonist treatment. The beta(2)-AR genotype appears to influence the response to therapy in this population.