Exacerbation Profile and Risk Factors in a Type-2-Low Enriched Severe Asthma Cohort: A Clinical Trial to Assess Asthma Exacerbation Phenotypes

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2022 Sep 1;206(5):545-553. doi: 10.1164/rccm.202201-0129OC.


Rationale: The past 25 years have seen huge progress in understanding of the pathobiology of type-2 (T2) asthma, identification of measurable biomarkers, and the emergence of novel monoclonal antibody treatments. Although present in a minority of patients with severe asthma, very little is known about the mechanisms underlying T2-low asthma, making it a significant unmet need in asthma research. Objectives: The objective of this study was to explore the differences between study exacerbators and nonexacerbators, to describe physiological changes at exacerbation in those who are T2HIGH and T2LOW at the time of exacerbation, and to evaluate the stability of inflammatory phenotypes when stable and at exacerbation. Methods: Exacerbation assessment was a prespecified secondary analysis of data from a 48-week, multicenter, randomized controlled clinical study comparing the use of biomarkers and symptoms to adjust steroid treatment in a T2-low severe asthma-enriched cohort. Participants were phenotyped as T2LOW (fractional exhaled nitric oxide ⩽ 20 ppb and blood eosinophil count ⩽ 150 cells/µl) or T2HIGH (fractional exhaled nitric oxide > 20 or blood eosinophil count > 150) at study enrollment and at each exacerbation. Here, we report the findings of the exacerbation analyses, including comparison of exacerbators and nonexacerbators, the physiological changes at exacerbation in those who had evidence of T2 biology at exacerbation versus those that did not, and the stability of inflammatory phenotypes when stable and at exacerbation. Measurements and Main Results: Of the 301 participants, 60.8% (183) had one or more self-reported exacerbations (total of 390). Exacerbators were more likely to be female, have a higher body mass index, and have more exacerbations requiring oral corticosteroid and unscheduled primary care attendances for exacerbations. At enrollment, 23.6% (71) were T2LOW and 76.4% (230) T2HIGH. The T2LOW group had more asthma primary care attendances, were more likely to have a previous admission to HDU (high dependency unit)/ICU and to be receiving maintenance oral corticosteroids. At exacerbation, the T2LOW events were indistinguishable from T2HIGH exacerbations in terms of lung function (mean fall in T2LOW FEV1, 200 [400] ml vs. T2HIGH 200 [300] ml; P = 0.93) and symptom increase (ACQ5: T2LOW, 1.4 [0.8] vs. T2HIGH, 1.3 [0.8]; P = 0.72), with no increase in T2 biomarkers from stable to exacerbation state in the T2LOW exacerbations. The inflammatory phenotype within individual patients was dynamic; inflammatory phenotype at study entry did not have a significant association with exacerbation phenotype. Conclusions: Asthma exacerbations demonstrating a T2LOW phenotype were physiologically and symptomatically similar to T2HIGH exacerbations. T2LOW asthma was an unstable phenotype, suggesting that exacerbation phenotyping should occur at the time of exacerbation. The clinically significant exacerbations in participants without evidence of T2 biology at the time of exacerbation highlight the unmet and pressing need to further understand the mechanisms at play in non-T2 asthma. Clinical trial registered with www.clinicaltrials.gov (NCT02717689).

Keywords: T2-low; exacerbation; severe asthma.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Asthma*
  • Biomarkers
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Phenotype
  • Risk Factors


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents
  • Biomarkers

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02717689