Endotoxin Exposure: Predictors and Prevalence of Associated Asthma Outcomes in the United States

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2015 Dec 1;192(11):1287-97. doi: 10.1164/rccm.201502-0251OC.


Rationale: Inhaled endotoxin induces airway inflammation and is an established risk factor for asthma. The 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey included measures of endotoxin and allergens in homes as well as specific IgE to inhalant allergens.

Objectives: To understand the relationships between endotoxin exposure, asthma outcomes, and sensitization status for 15 aeroallergens in a nationally representative sample.

Methods: Participants were administered questionnaires in their homes. Reservoir dust was vacuum sampled to generate composite bedding and bedroom floor samples. We analyzed 7,450 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey dust and quality assurance samples for their endotoxin content using extreme quality assurance measures. Data for 6,963 subjects were available, making this the largest study of endotoxin exposure to date. Log-transformed endotoxin concentrations were analyzed using logistic models and forward stepwise linear regression. Analyses were weighted to provide national prevalence estimates and unbiased variances.

Measurements and main results: Endotoxin exposure was significantly associated with wheeze in the past 12 months, wheeze during exercise, doctor and/or emergency room visits for wheeze, and use of prescription medications for wheeze. Models adjusted for age, sex, race and/or ethnicity, and poverty-to-income ratio and stratified by allergy status showed that these relationships were not dependent upon sensitization status but were worsened among those living in poverty. Significant predictors of higher endotoxin exposures were lower family income; Hispanic ethnicity; participant age; dog(s), cat(s), cockroaches, and/or smoker(s) in the home; and carpeted floors.

Conclusions: In this U.S. nationwide representative sample, higher endotoxin exposure was significantly associated with measures of wheeze, with no observed protective effect regardless of sensitization status.

Keywords: allergy; asthma; house dust; indoor air; wheeze.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / statistics & numerical data
  • Allergens / immunology
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Asthma / immunology*
  • Child
  • Endotoxins / immunology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin E / immunology
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • United States
  • Young Adult


  • Allergens
  • Endotoxins
  • Immunoglobulin E