Study objective: To study the existence of bronchial disease among rhinitis patients. To evaluate the laboratory test or set of tests (ie, symptoms, exposure, and sensitization to the allergen, and the provocative dose of methacholine [Mth] causing a 20% fall in FEV1 [PD20] and the maximal response plateau [MRP] to Mth) that best identifies a case of mild asthma.
Design: Cross-sectional analysis in 52 Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus-monosensitized patients who were consulting a physician for perennial rhinitis.
Setting: Allergy Department, Hospital Doctor Negrín, Las Palmas, Grand Canary Island, Spain.
Interventions and measurements: Patients filled out a standardized asthma symptom questionnaire, and underwent sputum induction and Mth challenge in which 40% falls in FEV1 were attained. Dose-response curves were expressed in terms of both PD20 values and the level of the MRP. D pteronyssinus allergen exposure was assessed in dust samples from patients’ beds.
Results: No difference between patients who positively responded to the questionnaire and those who did not was observed. Mth-PD20 values were not detected in 13% of the patients reporting bronchial symptoms, and an MRP was not identified in 59% of the subjects who did not respond positively. A higher degree of allergen sensitization (ascertained from skin test results, and total and specific serum IgE levels) and higher degree of sputum eosinophilia were detected in subjects in whom an MRP had not been identified. The presence of sputum eosinophilia provided the best differentiation between those patients who presented with an MRP and those who did not.
Conclusion: The individual perception of bronchial symptoms is highly variable among perennial allergic rhinitis patients. The lack of a maximal airway-narrowing plateau is related to the presence of sputum eosinophilia, which might be useful in the detection of patients susceptible to anti-inflammatory therapy. Prospective studies evaluating whether these patients are more likely to develop symptomatic asthma in the future and if the early anti-inflammatory treatment prevents its development are needed.