Reduced breath condensate pH in asymptomatic children with prior wheezing as a risk factor for asthma

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2011 Jul;128(1):50-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2011.03.005. Epub 2011 Mar 31.


Background: Early noninvasive detection of increased risk of asthma with exhaled breath condensate (EBC) pH measurement has not been applied to preschool children.

Objective: We sought to evaluate the ability of EBC pH measurement to identify young asymptomatic children at risk of asthma using the combination of recurrent wheezing and atopic sensitization as a proxy for a high risk of asthma.

Methods: pH values were measured in deaerated EBC from 191 children (median age, 4.4 years [interquartile range, 2.2 years]). Children were divided into one of 5 groups: asymptomatic children with recurrent wheezy bronchitis with (group 1, n = 34) or without (group 2, n = 64) allergic sensitization, acute wheezy bronchitis (group 3, n = 18), allergic rhinoconjunctivitis without recurrent wheezy bronchitis (group 4, n = 15), and healthy control subjects (group 5, n = 60). The Asthma Predictive Index score was calculated for groups 1 and 2. Statistical significance was evaluated with the appropriate nonparametric tests, and the discriminatory accuracy was evaluated with receiver operating characteristic analysis.

Results: Deaerated EBC pH values were significantly lower in groups 1 and 3 than in groups 2, 4, and 5 (median, 7.49 [interquartile range, 0.94] and 7.44 [interquartile range, 0.70] vs 7.93 [interquartile range, 0.23], 8.02 [interquartile range, 0.17], and 7.96 [interquartile range, 0.25], respectively; P < .001 and area under the receiver operating characteristic curve ≥0.80 in all comparisons). The area under the curve for the differentiation between groups 1 and 2 improved from 0.80 to 0.94 (sensitivity, 0.94; specificity, 0.84; positive predictive value, 0.76) when breath condensate pH values and Asthma Predictive Index scores were combined.

Conclusion: A reduced deaerated EBC pH value might help identify young asymptomatic children at high risk of asthma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / complications
  • Asthma / diagnosis*
  • Breath Tests / methods
  • Child, Preschool
  • Exhalation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate / complications
  • Infant
  • Male
  • ROC Curve
  • Respiratory Sounds / diagnosis*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sensitivity and Specificity