Asthma exacerbations: origin, effect, and prevention

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2011 Dec;128(6):1165-74. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2011.10.024.


Asthma is the most common chronic respiratory disease, affecting up to 10% of adults and 30% of children in the Western world. Despite advances in asthma management, acute exacerbations continue to occur and impose considerable morbidity on patients and constitute a major burden on health care resources. Respiratory tract viruses have emerged as the most frequent triggers for exacerbations in both children and adults; however, the mechanisms underlying these remain poorly understood. More recently, it has become increasingly clear that interactions might exist between viruses and other triggers, increasing the likelihood of an exacerbation. In this article we begin with an overview of the health, economic, and social burden that exacerbations of asthma carry with them. This is followed by a review of the pathogenesis of asthma exacerbations, highlighting the various triggers responsible and multiple interactions that exist between them. The final section first addresses what preventative measures are currently available for asthma exacerbations and subsequently examines which of the new treatments in development might lessen the burden of exacerbations in the future.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Asthma / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / complications
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / immunology
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / microbiology