Purpose of review: Asthma prevalence has markedly increased over the past 30 years. Although atopy and exposure to environmental allergens are known to exacerbate asthma, recent literature supports a causal role of indoor allergens in disease development.
Recent findings: High-risk birth cohorts continue to point to atopy as the main risk factor for developing asthma. Exposure to perennial allergens has also been linked to the development of asthma, though with less consistency. Intervention at the level of allergen exposure and allergic immune response is promising.
Summary: The current model of atopic asthma, the predominant phenotype, incorporates genetic and environmental factors in the development of disease. Although genetic factors are less malleable, the environmental component lends itself to analysis and modification.For many, the development of asthma starts with allergen exposure leading to atopic sensitization and subsequent disease. Several studies support the progression from exposure to sensitization with the potential of extremely high levels of exposure leading to tolerance. Likewise, the progression from atopy to asthma is well documented,especially in genetically predisposed children. Recent intervention trials confirm these findings and begin to show promise for the prevention of asthma by interrupting the allergen exposure==>allergen sensitization==>atopic asthma pathway.