Evidence for Exacerbation-Prone Asthma and Predictive Biomarkers of Exacerbation Frequency

NHLBI Severe Asthma Research Program

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


Rationale: Cross-sectional studies suggest an exacerbation-prone asthma (EPA) phenotype and the utility of blood eosinophils and plasma IL-6 as predictive biomarkers. Objectives: To prospectively test for EPA phenotype and utility of baseline blood measures of eosinophils and IL-6 as predictive biomarkers. Methods: Three-year asthma exacerbation data were analyzed in 406 adults in the Severe Asthma Research Program-3. Transition models were used to assess uninformed and informed probabilities of exacerbation in year 3. Binomial regression models were used to assess eosinophils and IL-6 as predictive biomarkers. Measurements and Main Results: Eighty-three participants (21%) had >1 exacerbation in each year (EPA) and 168 participants (41%) had no exacerbation in any year (exacerbation-resistant asthma). The uninformed probability of an exacerbation in Year 3 was 40%, but the informed probability increased to 63% with an exacerbation in Year 2 and 82% with an exacerbation in Years 1 and 2. The probability of a Year 3 exacerbation with no Year 1 or 2 exacerbations was 13%. Compared with exacerbation-resistant asthma, EPA was characterized by lower FEV1 and a higher prevalence of obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. High-plasma IL-6 occurred in EPA, and the incident rate ratio for exacerbation increased 10% for each 1-pg/ml increase in baseline IL-6 level. Although high blood eosinophils did not occur in EPA, the incident rate ratio for exacerbations increased 9% for each 100-cell/ml increase in baseline eosinophil number. Conclusions: Longitudinal analysis confirms an EPA phenotype characterized by features of metabolic dysfunction. Blood measures of IL-6, but not eosinophils, were significantly associated with EPA, and IL-6 and eosinophils predicted exacerbations in the sample as a whole.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)973-982
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican journal of respiratory and critical care medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020


  • Exacerbation-prone asthma
  • IL-6
  • Metabolic dysfunction
  • Obesity
  • Type-2 inflammation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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