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Henderson and colleagues1 interestingly describe six different wheezing phenotypes among which persistent wheeze is, they say, less associated with atopy than intermediate or late-onset wheeze (but with similar lung function deficits, suggesting a mixture of structural airway abnormalities and atopic wheeze).
We would like to emphasise the fact that children with persistent asthma without allergic sensitisation (ie, non-atopic persistent asthma (NAPA)) constitute a phenotype of its own that should be accounted for separately, since its clinical features differ noticeably from atopic persistent asthma (APA).
At our reference centre for paediatric asthma in a north-eastern region of Italy, there were 14 patients with NAPA out of 1280 seen in the last 5 years (1%). In this series, 12/14 patients with NAPA (84.7%) had clinical features of moderate and severe persistent asthma vs 304/1266 patients with APA (24%, p<0.001); 8/14 patients with NAPA (57%) required hospital admission compared with 130 patients with APA (10%, p<0.001). The transition from first wheezing (usually viral) and persistent asthma symptoms was much faster in patients with NAPA than in those with APA (mean (SD) 0.5 (0.8) years vs 3.6 (2.4) years; p = 0.001). Moreover, only one of the patients with NAPA had a clinical history of atopic dermatitis compared with 785 (63%) of those with APA.
Just as children with APA and adults with “intrinsic” asthma, children with NAPA do have intense eosinophilic inflammation of the respiratory airways.1 In agreement with this finding, inhaled steroids were an effective treatment in our patients.
Despite its low incidence, this infrequent—although not very rare—paediatric asthma phenotype should not be missed in large epidemiological cohort studies. Nothing is known about which treatment is best for NAPA and—even more importantly—nothing is known about the natural history of this severe disease.
Competing interests: None.
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