Endotypes identified by cluster analysis in asthmatics and non-asthmatics and their clinical characteristics at follow-up: the case-control EGEA study

BMJ Open Respir Res. 2020 Dec;7(1):e000632. doi: 10.1136/bmjresp-2020-000632.


Background: Identifying relevant asthma endotypes may be the first step towards improving asthma management. We aimed identifying respiratory endotypes in adults using a cluster analysis and to compare their clinical characteristics at follow-up.

Methods: The analysis was performed separately among current asthmatics (CA, n=402) and never asthmatics (NA, n=666) from the first follow-up of the French EGEA study (EGEA2). Cluster analysis jointly considered 4 demographic, 22 clinical/functional (respiratory symptoms, asthma treatments, lung function) and four blood biological (allergy-related, inflammation-related and oxidative stress-related biomarkers) characteristics at EGEA2. The clinical characteristics at follow-up (EGEA3) were compared according to the endotype identified at EGEA2.

Results: We identified five respiratory endotypes, three among CA and two among NA: CA1 (n=53) with active treated adult-onset asthma, poor lung function, chronic cough and phlegm and dyspnoea, high body mass index, and high blood neutrophil count and fluorescent oxidation products level; CA2 (n=219) with mild asthma and rhinitis; CA3 (n=130) with inactive/mild untreated allergic childhood-onset asthma, high frequency of current smokers and low frequency of attacks of breathlessness at rest, and high IgE level; NA1 (n=489) asymptomatic, and NA2 (n=177) with respiratory symptoms, high blood neutrophil and eosinophil counts. CA1 had poor asthma control and high leptin level, CA2 had hyper-responsiveness and high interleukin (IL)-1Ra, IL-5, IL-7, IL-8, IL-10, IL-13 and TNF-α levels, and NA2 had high leptin and C reactive protein levels. Ten years later, asthmatics in CA1 had worse clinical characteristics whereas those in CA3 had better respiratory outcomes than CA2; NA in NA2 had more respiratory symptoms and higher rate of incident asthma than those in NA1.

Conclusion: These results highlight the interest to jointly consider clinical and biological characteristics in cluster analyses to identify endotypes among adults with or without asthma.

Keywords: asthma epidemiology.