Untangling asthma phenotypes and endotypes

Allergy. 2012 Jul;67(7):835-46. doi: 10.1111/j.1398-9995.2012.02832.x. Epub 2012 May 17.


Asthma phenotypes have been developed to address the complexities of the disease. However, owing to a lack of longitudinal studies, little is known about the onset as well as the stability of phenotypes. Distinguishing phenotypes with regard to the severity or duration of the disease is essential. A phenotype covers the clinically relevant properties of the disease, but does not show the direct relationship to disease etiology and pathophysiology. Different pathogenetic mechanisms might cause similar asthma symptoms and might be operant in a certain phenotype. These putative mechanisms are addressed by the term 'endotype'. Classification of asthma based on endotypes provides advantages for epidemiological, genetic, and drug-related studies. A successful definition of endotypes should link key pathogenic mechanisms with the asthma phenotype. Thus, the identification of corresponding molecular biomarkers for individual pathogenic mechanism underlying phenotypes or subgroups within a phenotype is important. Whether newly defined asthma endotypes predict the individual course of asthma has to be validated in longitudinal studies. The accurate endotyping reflects natural history of asthma and should help to predict treatment response. Thus, understanding asthma endotypes might be useful in clinical practice.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / classification
  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Asthma / therapy
  • Humans
  • Phenotype*
  • Treatment Outcome