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Tailoring asthma treatment on eosinophilic markers (exhaled nitric oxide or sputum eosinophils): a systematic review and meta-analysis
  1. Helen L Petsky1,
  2. Chris J Cates2,
  3. Kayleigh M Kew3,
  4. Anne B Chang4,5
  1. 1 School of Nursing and Midwifery, Griffith University and Menzies Health Institute Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  2. 2 Population Health Research Institute, St George’s, University of London, London, UK
  3. 3 British Medical Journal Technology Assessment Group (BMJ-TAG), BMJ, London, UK
  4. 4 Child Health Division, Menzies School of Health Research, Darwin, Australia
  5. 5 Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Helen L Petsky, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Griffith University and Menzies Health Institute Queensland, Brisbane, Australia; helenpetsky{at}


Background Asthma guidelines guide health practitioners to adjust treatments to the minimum level required for asthma control. As many people with asthma have an eosinophilic endotype, tailoring asthma medications based on airway eosinophilic levels (sputum eosinophils or exhaled nitric oxide, FeNO) may improve asthma outcomes.

Objective To synthesise the evidence from our updated Cochrane systematic reviews, for tailoring asthma medication based on eosinophilic inflammatory markers (sputum analysis and FeNO) for improving asthma-related outcomes in children and adults.

Data sources Cochrane reviews with standardised searches up to February 2017.

Study selection The Cochrane reviews included randomised controlled comparisons of tailoring asthma medications based on sputum analysis or FeNO compared with controls (primarily clinical symptoms and/or spirometry/peak flow).

Results The 16 included studies of FeNO-based management (seven in adults) and 6 of sputum-based management (five in adults) were clinically heterogeneous. On follow-up, participants randomised to the sputum eosinophils strategy (compared with controls) were significantly less likely to have exacerbations (62 vs 82/100 participants with ≥1 exacerbation; OR 0.36, 95% CI 0.21 to 0.62). For the FeNO strategy, the respective numbers were adults OR 0.60 (95% CI 0.43 to 0.84) and children 0.58 (95% CI 0.45 to 0.75). However, there were no significant group differences for either strategy on daily inhaled corticosteroids dose (at end of study), asthma control or lung function.

Conclusion Adjusting treatment based on airway eosinophilic markers reduced the likelihood of asthma exacerbations but had no significant impact on asthma control or lung function.

  • asthma
  • exhaled airway markers
  • pulmonary eosinophilia
  • paediatric asthma
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  • Contributors All authors contributed and reviewed the manuscript. HLP, ABC and KMK extracted the data and performed the analysis. CJC triple checked all data and provided statistical support.

  • Funding Asthma Australia—HLP is supported by Early Career Fellowship; National Health and Medical Research Council—10058213 Practitioner Fellowship for ABC; Programme Grants for Applied Research—13/89/14 Cochrane Programme Grant (KMK and CJC).

  • Competing interests HLP, and ABC have conducted a randomised controlled trial in children on this subject. Other authors have no competing interests to declare.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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