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1.  Fungal Exposure, Atopy, and Asthma Exacerbations in Puerto Rican Children 
Background: Glucan is a component of the fungal cell wall that is used as a marker of fungal exposure. Little is known about indoor glucan, atopy, and asthma exacerbations among children living in tropical environments such as Puerto Rico. Our objective was to examine whether glucan exposure is associated with degree of atopy or visits to the emergency department (ED)/urgent care for asthma in Puerto Rican children.
Methods: This was a cross-sectional study of 317 children aged 6 to 14 years with (cases, n = 160) and without (control subjects, n = 157) asthma in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Our primary outcomes were the number of positive skin tests to allergens (range, 0–15) and (in cases only) having had at least one visit to the ED/urgent care for asthma in the prior year. Levels of glucan, endotoxin, peptidoglycan, and five allergens (Der p 1, Bla g 2, Fel d 1, Can f 1, and Mus m 1) were measured in samples of house dust. Linear or logistic regression was used for the multivariate analysis.
Measurements and Main Results: In a multivariate analysis adjusting for case-control status, mouse allergen, and other covariates, children exposed to glucan levels in the second and third quartiles had approximately two more positive skin tests than those in the lowest quartile (P < 0.01 in both instances). Among children with asthma, exposure to the highest quartile of glucan was associated with nearly ninefold greater odds of one or more visits to the ED/urgent care for asthma (95% confidence interval for adjusted odds ratio, 2.7–28.4; P < 0.001).
Conclusions: Our results suggest that indoor fungal exposure leads to an increased degree of atopy and visits to the ED/urgent care for asthma in Puerto Rican children.
PMCID: PMC4213992  PMID: 24915164
fungi; asthma attacks; Puerto Ricans; children
2.  Adiposity, Fractional Exhaled Nitric Oxide, and Asthma in U.S. Children 
Rationale: Whether allergic airway inflammation mediates the association between overweight or obesity and childhood asthma is unknown.
Objectives: To examine adiposity, asthma, and fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO) in U.S. children.
Methods: Cross-sectional study of indicators of adiposity or obesity, FeNO (a biomarker of eosinophilic airway inflammation), and asthma in 2,681 children aged 6–17 years in the 2007–2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Adiposity measures included body mass index (BMI), percent body fat (PBF), and waist circumference (WC).
Measurements and Main Results: BMI, PBF, and WC were associated with asthma among children with low FeNO (odds ratio, 1.54–1.68; P < 0.01), but not among children with increased FeNO. Among children without asthma, BMI, PBF, and WC were associated with higher FEV1 and FVC, and lower FEV1/FVC. Among children with asthma and a high FeNO, all adiposity indicators were associated with decreased FEV1/FVC (β = −1.5% to −1.7% per z score) but not with FEV1 or FVC. Higher BMI or PBF was associated with worse asthma severity or control in children with asthma and increased FeNO, but not in children with asthma and low FeNO. Similar results were obtained in a secondary multivariate analysis of overweight or obesity (defined as BMI ≥85th percentile) and asthma or indicators of asthma severity or control, stratified by FeNO level.
Conclusions: Adiposity indicators are associated with asthma in children with low FeNO. Among children with asthma, adiposity indicators are associated with worse asthma severity or control in those with high FeNO.
PMCID: PMC4226031  PMID: 24922361
asthma; airway inflammation; adiposity; obesity; NHANES
3.  Obesity and adiposity indicators, asthma, and atopy in Puerto Rican children 
Whether adiposity indicators other than body mass index should be used in studies of childhood asthma is largely unknown. The role of atopy in “obese asthma” is also unclear.
To examine the relation among adiposity indicators, asthma, and atopy in Puerto Rican children, and to assess whether atopy mediates the obesity-asthma association.
In a study of Puerto Rican children with (n=351) and without (n=327) asthma, we measured body mass index (BMI), percent body fat (PBF), waist circumference (WC), and waist-to-hip ratio (WHR). The outcomes studied included asthma, lung function, measures of atopy, and, among cases, indicators of asthma severity or control. We performed mediation analysis to assess the contribution of atopy to the relationship between adiposity and asthma.
BMI, PBF, and WC were associated with increased odds of asthma. Among cases, all three measures were generally associated with lung function, asthma severity/control, and atopy; however, there were differences depending on the adiposity indicator analyzed. Atopy considerably mediated the adiposity-asthma association in this population: allergic rhinitis accounted for 22-53% of the association with asthma, and sensitization to cockroach mediated 13-20% of the association with FVC and 29-42% of the association with emergency room visits for asthma.
Adiposity indicators are associated with asthma, asthma severity/control, and atopy in Puerto Rican children. Atopy significantly mediates the effect of adiposity on asthma outcomes. Longitudinal studies are needed to further investigate the causal role, if any, of adiposity distribution and atopy on “obese asthma” in childhood.
Clinical Implications:
Assessment of adiposity rather than sole reliance on BMI may be important in studies of childhood asthma. Atopy is an important mediator of the relation between obesity and asthma in Puerto Rican children.
Capsule Summary:
In a cohort of Puerto Rican children, measures of adiposity were associated with asthma, asthma severity/control, and atopy; however, some differences existed depending on the adiposity indicator utilized. Atopy significantly mediated the association between adiposity indicators and asthma.
PMCID: PMC4013276  PMID: 24290290
Childhood asthma; obesity; adiposity; body mass index; percent body fat; obesity and asthma; obesity and atopy
4.  Respiratory Health Equality in the United States. The American Thoracic Society Perspective 
Because the frequency of major risk factors for respiratory diseases (e.g., tobacco use) differs across demographic groups (defined by socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, health care access, occupation, or other characteristics), health disparities are commonly encountered in pediatric and adult pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine. As part of its policy on respiratory health disparities, the American Thoracic Society (ATS) Executive Committee created a Health Equality Subcommittee of the Health Policy Committee, with an initial mandate of defining respiratory health equality and, as a subsequent task, providing recommendations to the ATS leadership as to how our society may help attain such equality in the United States. After receiving input from the ATS assemblies and committees, the subcommittee developed this document on respiratory health equality. This document defines respiratory health disparities and respiratory health equality, and expands on a recent ATS and European Respiratory Society policy statement on disparities in respiratory health. Attainment of respiratory health equality requires the ending of respiratory health disparities, which can be achieved only through multidisciplinary efforts to eliminate detrimental environmental exposures while promoting a healthy lifestyle, implementing all components of high-quality health care (prevention, screening, diagnosis, and treatment), and conducting research that will lead to better prevention and management of respiratory diseases for everyone. The ATS recognizes that such efforts must include all stakeholders: members of society at large, governmental and nongovernmental organizations, and other professional societies. The ATS urges all of its members and those of sister societies to work to achieve this laudable goal.
PMCID: PMC4225793  PMID: 24625275
respiratory tract diseases; health status disparities; health care disparities; health policy; United States
5.  Diet and Asthma: Vitamins and Methyl Donors 
The lancet. Respiratory medicine  2013;1(10):813-822.
Dietary changes may partly explain the high burden of asthma in industrialized nations. Experimental studies have motivated a significant number of observational studies of the relation between vitamins (A, C, D, and E) or nutrients acting as methyl donors (folate, vitamin B12, and choline) and asthma. Because observational studies are susceptible to several sources of bias, well-conducted randomized controlled trials (RCTs) remain the “gold standard” to determine whether a vitamin or nutrient has an effect on asthma. Evidence from observational studies and/or relatively few RCTs most strongly justify ongoing and future RCTs of: 1) vitamin D to prevent or treat asthma, 2) choline supplementation as adjuvant treatment for asthma, and 3) vitamin E to prevent the detrimental effects of air pollution in subjects with asthma. At this time, there is insufficient evidence to recommend supplementation with any vitamin or nutrient acting as a methyl donor to prevent or treat asthma.
PMCID: PMC3904132  PMID: 24461761
6.  Asthma in Hispanics. An 8-Year Update 
This review provides an update on asthma in Hispanics, a diverse group tracing their ancestry to countries previously under Spanish rule. A marked variability in the prevalence and morbidity from asthma remains among Hispanic subgroups in the United States and Hispanic America. In the United States, Puerto Ricans and Mexican Americans have high and low burdens of asthma, respectively (the “Hispanic Paradox”). This wide divergence in asthma morbidity among Hispanic subgroups is multifactorial, likely reflecting the effects of known (secondhand tobacco smoke, air pollution, psychosocial stress, obesity, inadequate treatment) and potential (genetic variants, urbanization, vitamin D insufficiency, and eradication of parasitic infections) risk factors. Barriers to adequate asthma management in Hispanics include economic and educational disadvantages, lack of health insurance, and no access to or poor adherence with controller medications such as inhaled corticosteroids. Although considerable progress has been made in our understanding of asthma in Hispanic subgroups, many questions remain. Studies of asthma in Hispanic America should focus on environmental or lifestyle factors that are more relevant to asthma in this region (e.g., urbanization, air pollution, parasitism, and stress). In the United States, research studies should focus on risk factors that are known to or may diverge among Hispanic subgroups, including but not limited to epigenetic variation, prematurity, vitamin D level, diet, and stress. Clinical trials of culturally appropriate interventions that address multiple aspects of asthma management in Hispanic subgroups should be prioritized for funding. Ensuring high-quality healthcare for all remains a pillar of eliminating asthma disparities.
PMCID: PMC4098086  PMID: 24881937
asthma; Hispanics; genetics; risk factors
7.  Folate and Asthma 
Findings from experimental studies and animal models led to the hypothesis that folic acid supplementation during pregnancy confers an increased risk of asthma. This review provides a critical examination of current experimental and epidemiologic evidence of a causal association between folate status and asthma. In industrialized nations, the prevalence of asthma was rising before widespread fortification of foodstuffs with folic acid or folate supplementation before or during pregnancy, thus suggesting that changes in folate status are an unlikely explanation for “the asthma epidemic.” Consistent with this ecologic observation, evidence from human studies does not support moderate or strong effects of folate status on asthma. Given known protective effects against neural tube and cardiac defects, there is no reason to alter current recommendations for folic acid supplementation during conception or pregnancy based on findings for folate and asthma. Although we believe that there are inadequate data to exclude a weak effect of maternal folate status on asthma or asthma symptoms, such effects could be examined within the context of very large (and ongoing) birth cohort studies. At this time, there is no justification for funding new studies of folate and asthma.
PMCID: PMC3735241  PMID: 23650899
folate; asthma; asthma morbidity
8.  ADCYAP1R1 and Asthma in Puerto Rican Children 
Rationale: Epigenetic and/or genetic variation in the gene encoding the receptor for adenylate-cyclase activating polypeptide 1 (ADCYAP1R1) has been linked to post-traumatic stress disorder in adults and anxiety in children. Psychosocial stress has been linked to asthma morbidity in Puerto Rican children.
Objectives: To examine whether epigenetic or genetic variation in ADCYAP1R1 is associated with childhood asthma in Puerto Ricans.
Methods: We conducted a case-control study of 516 children ages 6–14 years living in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We assessed methylation at a CpG site in the promoter of ADCYAP1R1 (cg11218385) using a pyrosequencing assay in DNA from white blood cells. We tested whether cg11218385 methylation (range, 0.4–6.1%) is associated with asthma using logistic regression. We also examined whether exposure to violence (assessed by the Exposure to Violence [ETV] Scale in children 9 yr and older) is associated with cg11218385 methylation (using linear regression) or asthma (using logistic regression). Logistic regression was used to test for association between a single nucleotide polymorphism in ADCYAP1R1 (rs2267735) and asthma under an additive model. All multivariate models were adjusted for age, sex, household income, and principal components.
Measurements and Main Results: Each 1% increment in cg11218385 methylation was associated with increased odds of asthma (adjusted odds ratio, 1.3; 95% confidence interval, 1.0–1.6; P = 0.03). Among children 9 years and older, exposure to violence was associated with cg11218385 methylation. The C allele of single nucleotide polymorphism rs2267735 was significantly associated with increased odds of asthma (adjusted odds ratio, 1.3; 95% confidence interval, 1.02–1.67; P = 0.03).
Conclusions: Epigenetic and genetic variants in ADCYAP1R1 are associated with asthma in Puerto Rican children.
PMCID: PMC3733434  PMID: 23328528
methylation; ADCYAP1R1; childhood asthma; Puerto Ricans; violence
9.  Asthma and Ethnic Minorities: Socioeconomic Status and Beyond 
Purpose of review
We aim to discuss current insights into our understanding of the mechanisms by which socioeconomic status (SES) influences the prevalence and severity of asthma in ethnic minorities. In addition, we review potential risk factors for ethnic disparities in asthma that are not mediated by SES.
Recent findings
Exposures and factors correlated with ethnicity through SES (e.g. indoor and outdoor air quality, smoke exposure, and access to healthcare) are likely to explain a significant proportion of the observed ethnic differences in asthma morbidity. However, other factors correlated with ethnicity (e.g., genetic variation) can impact ethnic disparities in asthma independently of and/or interacting with SES-related factors.
SES is a rough marker of a variety of environmental/behavioral exposures and a very important determinant of differences in asthma prevalence and severity among ethnic minorities in the U.S. However, SES is unlikely to be the sole explanation for ethnic disparities in asthma, which may also be due to differences in genetic variation and gene-by-environment interactions among ethnic groups.
PMCID: PMC3920741  PMID: 19326508
Childhood asthma; asthma epidemiology; socioeconomic status; ethnicity; race; minorities
10.  Exposure to dust mite allergen and endotoxin in early life and asthma and atopy in childhood 
There has been no longitudinal study of the relation between concurrent exposure to dust mite allergen and endotoxin in early life and asthma and atopy at school age.
To examine the relation between exposure to dust mite allergen and endotoxin at age 2 to 3 months and asthma, wheeze, and atopy in high-risk children.
Birth cohort study of 440 children with parental history of atopy in the Boston metropolitan area.
In multivariate analyses, early exposure to high levels of dust mite allergen (≥10 μg/g) was associated with increased risks of asthma at age 7 years (odds ratio [OR], 3.0; 95% CI, 1.1-7.9) and late-onset wheeze (OR, 5.0; 95% CI, 1.5-16.4). Exposure to endotoxin levels above the lowest quartile at age 2 to 3 months was associated with reduced odds of atopy at school age (OR, 0.5; 95% CI, 0.2-0.9). In contrast with its inverse association with atopy, endotoxin exposure in early life was associated with an increased risk of any wheeze between ages 1 and 7 years that did not change significantly with time (hazard ratio for each quartile increment in endotoxin levels, 1.23; 95% CI, 1.07-1.43).
Among children at risk of atopy, early exposure to high levels of dust mite allergen is associated with increased risks of asthma and late-onset wheeze. In these children, endotoxin exposure is associated with a reduced risk of atopy but an increased risk of wheeze.
Clinical implications
Early endotoxin exposure may be a protective factor against atopy but a risk factor for wheeze in high-risk children.
PMCID: PMC3737770  PMID: 17507083
Endotoxin; dust mite; wheeze; atopy; asthma
11.  Vitamin D Insufficiency and Severe Asthma Exacerbations in Puerto Rican Children 
Rationale: Vitamin D insufficiency (a serum 25(OH)D <30 ng/ml) has been associated with severe asthma exacerbations, but this could be explained by underlying racial ancestry or disease severity. Little is known about vitamin D and asthma in Puerto Ricans.
Objectives: To examine whether vitamin D insufficiency is associated with severe asthma exacerbations in Puerto Rican children, independently of racial ancestry, atopy, and time outdoors.
Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted of 560 children ages 6–14 years with (n = 287) and without (n = 273) asthma in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We measured plasma vitamin D and estimated the percentage of African racial ancestry among participants using genome-wide genotypic data. We tested whether vitamin D insufficiency is associated with severe asthma exacerbations, lung function, or atopy (greater than or equal to one positive IgE to allergens) using logistic or linear regression. Multivariate models were adjusted for African ancestry, time outdoors, atopy, and other covariates.
Measurements and Main Results: Vitamin D insufficiency was common in children with (44%) and without (47%) asthma. In multivariate analyses, vitamin D insufficiency was associated with higher odds of greater than or equal to one severe asthma exacerbation in the prior year (odds ratio [OR], 2.6; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.5–4.9; P = 0.001) and atopy, and a lower FEV1/FVC in cases. After stratification by atopy, the magnitude of the association between vitamin D insufficiency and severe exacerbations was greater in nonatopic (OR, 6.2; 95% CI, 2–21.6; P = 0.002) than in atopic (OR, 2; 95% CI, 1–4.1; P = 0.04) cases.
Conclusions: Vitamin D insufficiency is associated with severe asthma exacerbations in Puerto Rican children, independently of racial ancestry, atopy, or markers of disease severity or control.
PMCID: PMC3406083  PMID: 22652028
vitamin D; asthma exacerbations; Puerto Ricans; childhood
12.  Genes and COPD 
The marked variability in individual susceptibility to the detrimental effects of smoking on lung function and findings suggest a significant genetic contribution to COPD, which has been demonstrated in several studies. The only known genetic risk factor for COPD, severe alpha 1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency, explains only 1–2% of cases of this disease. Screening for severe AAT should be conducted in all cases of COPD. Intravenous augmentation therapy should be combined with currently recommended treatment modalities for COPD when treating patients with COPD due to severe AAT deficiency. There is considerable interest in identifying susceptibility genes for COPD unrelated to severe AAT deficiency, as this could greatly enhance current efforts to prevent, diagnose and treat this disease by yielding novel insights into its pathogenesis. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of COPD and its intermediate phenotypes (e.g., lung function measures) have identified novel susceptibility loci for COPD. Some of these susceptibility loci may also influence lung function in the general population (e.g., HHIP and FAM13A), while others may affect not only COPD but other diseases related to smoking behavior (e.g., CHRNA3/CHRNA5). Although much work remains to be done, recent advances and the implementation of novel approaches to study COPD genetics (e.g., sequencing) and epigenetics are promising, and could have a profound impact on COPD management.
PMCID: PMC3399759  PMID: 22793939
COPD; genetics; alpha 1 antitrypsin deficiency
13.  African Ancestry and Lung Function in Puerto Rican Children 
Puerto Ricans and African Americans share a significant proportion of African ancestry. Recent findings suggest that African ancestry influences lung function in African American adults.
To examine whether a greater proportion of African ancestry is associated with lower FEV1 and FVC in Puerto Rican children, independently of socioeconomic status (SES), healthcare access or key environmental/lifestyle (EL) factors.
Cross-sectional case-control study of 943 Puerto Rican children ages 6 to 14 years with (n=520) and without (n=423) asthma (defined as physician-diagnosed asthma and wheeze in the prior year) living in Hartford (CT, n=383) and San Juan (PR, n=560). We estimated the percentage of African racial ancestry in study participants using genome-wide genotypic data. We tested whether African ancestry is associated with FEV1 and FVC using linear regression. Multivariate models were adjusted for indicators of SES and healthcare, and selected EL exposures.
After adjustment for household income and other covariates, each 20% increment in African ancestry was significantly associated with lower pre-bronchodilator(BD) FEV1 (−105 ml, 95% confidence interval [CI] = −159 ml to −51 ml, P <0.001) and FVC (−133 ml, 95% CI −197 ml to −69 ml, P <0.001), and post-BD FEV1 (−152 ml, 95% CI=−210 ml to −94 ml, P <0.001) and FVC (−145 ml, 95% CI= −211 to −79 ml, P <0.001) in children with asthma. Similar but weaker associations were found for pre- and post-BD FEV1 (change for each 20% increment in African ancestry= −78 ml, 95% CI= −131 to −25 ml, P=0.004), and for post-BD FVC among children without asthma.
Genetic and/or EL factors correlated with African ancestry may influence childhood lung function in Puerto Ricans.
PMCID: PMC3367038  PMID: 22560959
ancestry; FEV1; FVC; Puerto Ricans; childhood
14.  Maternal Obesity in Pregnancy, Gestational Weight Gain, and Risk of Childhood Asthma 
Pediatrics  2014;134(2):e535-e546.
Environmental or lifestyle exposures in utero may influence the development of childhood asthma. In this meta-analysis, we aimed to assess whether maternal obesity in pregnancy (MOP) or increased maternal gestational weight gain (GWG) increased the risk of asthma in offspring.
We included all observational studies published until October 2013 in PubMed, Embase, CINAHL, Scopus, The Cochrane Database, and Ovid. Random effects models with inverse variance weights were used to calculate pooled risk estimates.
Fourteen studies were included (N = 108 321 mother–child pairs). Twelve studies reported maternal obesity, and 5 reported GWG. Age of children was 14 months to 16 years. MOP was associated with higher odds of asthma or wheeze ever (OR = 1.31; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.16–1.49) or current (OR = 1.21; 95% CI, 1.07–1.37); each 1-kg/m2 increase in maternal BMI was associated with a 2% to 3% increase in the odds of childhood asthma. High GWG was associated with higher odds of asthma or wheeze ever (OR = 1.16; 95% CI, 1.001–1.34). Maternal underweight and low GWG were not associated with childhood asthma or wheeze. Meta-regression showed a negative association of borderline significance for maternal asthma history (P = .07). The significant heterogeneity among existing studies indicates a need for standardized approaches to future studies on the topic.
MOP and high GWG are associated with an elevated risk of childhood asthma; this finding may be particularly significant for mothers without asthma history. Prospective randomized trials of maternal weight management are needed.
PMCID: PMC4187236  PMID: 25049351
childhood asthma; asthma risk factors; maternal obesity; gestational weight gain; meta-analysis
15.  Vitamin D and Asthma 
Vitamin D deficiency and asthma are common conditions that share risk factors such as African American ethnicity, inner-city residence, and obesity. This review provides a critical examination of current experimental and epidemiologic evidence of a causal association between vitamin D status and asthma or asthma morbidity, including potential protective mechanisms such as antiviral effects and enhanced steroid responsiveness. Because most published epidemiologic studies of vitamin D and asthma or asthma morbidity are observational, a recommendation for or against vitamin D supplementation as preventive or secondary treatment for asthma is not advisable and must await results of ongoing clinical trials. Should these trials confirm a beneficial effect of vitamin D, others will be needed to assess the role of vitamin D supplementation to prevent or treat asthma in different groups such as infants, children of school age, and ethnic minorities.
PMCID: PMC3297088  PMID: 22016447
vitamin D; asthma; asthma morbidity
16.  Identification of FGF7 as a novel susceptibility locus for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 
Thorax  2011;66(12):1085-1090.
Traditional genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of large cohort of subjects with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have successfully identified novel candidate genes, but several other plausible loci do not meet strict criteria for genome-wide significance after correction for multiple testing.
We hypothesize that by applying unbiased weights derived from unique populations we can identify additional COPD susceptibility loci.
We performed a homozygosity haplotype analysis on a group of subjects with and without COPD to identify regions of conserved homozygosity (RCHH). Weights were constructed based on the frequency of these RCHH in case vs. controls, and used to adjust the P values from a large collaborative GWAS of COPD.
We identified 2,318 regions of conserved homozygosity, of which 576 were significantly (P < .05) overrepresented in cases. After applying the weights constructed from these regions to a collaborative GWAS of COPD, we identified two single nucleotide polymorphisms in a novel gene (FGF7) that gained genome-wide significance by the false discovery rate method. In a follow-up analysis, both SNPs (rs12591300 and rs4480740) were significantly associated with COPD in an independent population (combined P values of 7.9E-07 and 2.8E-06 respectively). In another independent population, increased lung tissue FGF7 expression was associated with worse measures of lung function.
Weights constructed from a homozygosity haplotype analysis of an isolated population successfully identify novel genetic associations from a GWAS on a separate population. This method can be used to identify promising candidate genes that fail to meet strict correction for multiple testing.
PMCID: PMC3348619  PMID: 21921092
17.  Inflammatory Markers of Lung Disease in Adult Patients With Cystic Fibrosis 
Pediatric pulmonology  2007;42(3):256-262.
Progressive pulmonary disease associated with chronic bacterial infection and inflammation is the major cause of morbidity and mortality in cystic fibrosis (CF) patients. Identifying markers of inflammation that correlate with lung injury may be useful in monitoring disease progression and response to therapy. We hypothesized that levels of serum biomarkers would correlate with clinical course of CF as defined by pulmonary function testing (FEV1).
To determine whether biomarkers of systemic inflammation correlate with lung function in adults with CF.
Retrospective cross-sectional analysis of 63 individuals ≥30 years of age diagnosed with CF in childhood and followed at Children’s Hospital, Boston. We collected data on demographics, CFTR genotype, percent predicted forced expiratory volume in 1 sec (FEV1), C-reactive protein (CRP), serum IgE nd IgG, alpha1-antitrypsin, total white blood cell and neutrophil counts, and percent neutrophils. We used univariate analyses and multivariate linear regression modeling to examine whether markers of systemic inflammation varied with FEV1 (% predicted).
In two-covariate models including CRP and one other marker, CRP (P < 0.001) and IgG (P = 0.02) were significantly associated with FEV1 (% predicted). In the CRP and IgG model, percent predicted FEV1 decreased by 4.91% (P < 0.0001) for each twofold increase in CRP and by 1.56% (P = 0.02) for each 100 mg/dl increase in IgG. Results were unchanged by adjustment for number of DF 508 CFTR alleles. There was no association between any other marker and FEV1 (% predicted) after adjusting for CRP.
Severity of lung disease in long surviving adult CF patients is correlated with CRP and IgG levels. Our findings relating CRP and IgG levels and lung function provide a foundation for subsequent longitudinal studies and consideration of novel disease mechanisms and outcome measurements.
PMCID: PMC4469989  PMID: 17245735
cystic fibrosis; biological markers; airway inflammation; c-reactive protein in cystic fibrosis; lung function; IgG in cystic fibrosis
18.  Parental psychosocial stress and asthma morbidity in Puerto Rican twins 
Little is known about paternal psychosocial factors and childhood asthma.
To examine the link between maternal and paternal psychosocial stress and asthma outcomes in young children.
Parents of 339 pairs of Puerto Rican twins were interviewed individually about their own psychosocial stress and about asthma in their children at age 1 and again about their child’s asthma at age 3. Fathers were asked about symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anti-social behavior. Mothers were asked about depressive symptoms. Outcomes assessed in children included recent asthma symptoms, oral steroid use and hospitalizations for asthma in the prior year, and asthma diagnosis. Generalized estimated equation models were used for the multivariate analysis of parental psychosocial stress and asthma morbidity in childhood.
After multivariable adjustment, paternal PTSD symptoms, depression, and anti-social behavior were each associated with increased asthma symptoms at age 1 (e.g., OR =1.08 for each 1-point increase in PTSD score, 95% CI=1.03–1.14). Maternal depressive symptoms were associated with an increased risk of asthma hospitalizations at age 1 year. At age 3 years, maternal depressive symptoms were associated with asthma diagnosis and hospitalizations for asthma (OR for each 1-point increase in symptoms=1.16, 95% CI=1.00–1.36]). In an analysis combining 1 and 3 year outcomes, paternal depression was associated with oral steroid use, maternal depressive symptoms were associated with asthma hospitalizations and asthma diagnosis, and parental depression was associated with hospitalizations for asthma.
Both paternal and maternal psychosocial factors may influence asthma morbidity in young Puerto Rican children.
PMCID: PMC3057225  PMID: 21194742
psychosocial stress; childhood wheeze; Puerto Rico; parental stress; asthma; paternal stress
19.  Expression Quantitative Trait Loci (eQTL) Mapping in Puerto Rican Children 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(3):e0122464.
Expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) have been identified using tissue or cell samples from diverse human populations, thus enhancing our understanding of regulation of gene expression. However, few studies have attempted to identify eQTL in racially admixed populations such as Hispanics.
We performed a systematic eQTL study to identify regulatory variants of gene expression in whole blood from 121 Puerto Rican children with (n = 63) and without (n = 58) asthma. Genome-wide genotyping was conducted using the Illumina Omni2.5M Bead Chip, and gene expression was assessed using the Illumina HT-12 microarray. After completing quality control, we performed a pair-wise genome analysis of ~15 K transcripts and ~1.3 M SNPs for both local and distal effects. This analysis was conducted under a regression framework adjusting for age, gender and principal components derived from both genotypic and mRNA data. We used a false discovery rate (FDR) approach to identify significant eQTL signals, which were next compared to top eQTL signals from existing eQTL databases. We then performed a pathway analysis for our top genes.
We identified 36,720 local pairs in 3,391 unique genes and 1,851 distal pairs in 446 unique genes at FDR <0.05, corresponding to unadjusted P values lower than 1.5x10-4 and 4.5x10-9, respectively. A significant proportion of genes identified in our study overlapped with those identified in previous studies. We also found an enrichment of disease-related genes in our eQTL list.
We present results from the first eQTL study in Puerto Rican children, who are members of a unique Hispanic cohort disproportionately affected with asthma, prematurity, obesity and other common diseases. Our study confirmed eQTL signals identified in other ethnic groups, while also detecting additional eQTLs unique to our study population. The identified eQTLs will help prioritize findings from future genome-wide association studies in Puerto Ricans.
PMCID: PMC4376710  PMID: 25816334
20.  Risk Factors for Allergic Rhinitis in Costa Rican Children with Asthma 
Allergy  2009;65(2):256-263.
Risk factors for allergic rhinitis (AR) in asthmatics are likely distinct from those for AR or asthma alone. We sought to identify clinical and environmental risk factors for AR in children with asthma.
We performed a cross-sectional study of 616 Costa Rican children aged 6–14 years with asthma. Candidate risk factors were drawn from questionnaire data, spirometry, methacholine challenge testing, skin testing, and serology. Two outcome measures, skin test reaction (STR)-positive AR and physician-diagnosed AR, were examined by logistic regression.
STR-positive AR had high prevalence (80%) in Costa Rican children with asthma, and its independent risk factors were nasal symptoms after exposure to dust or mold, parental history of AR, older age at asthma onset, oral steroid use in the past year, eosinophilia, and positive IgEs to dust mite and cockroach. Physician-diagnosed AR had lower prevalence (27%), and its independent risk factors were nasal symptoms after pollen exposure, STR to tree pollens, a parental history of AR, inhaled steroid and short-acting β2 agonist use in the past year, household mold/mildew, and fewer older siblings. A physician’s diagnosis was only 29.5% sensitive for STR-positive AR.
Risk factors for AR in children with asthma depend on the definition of AR. Indoor allergens drive risk for STR-positive AR. Outdoor allergens and home environmental conditions are risk factors for physician-diagnosed AR. We propose that children with asthma in Costa Rica and other Latin American nations undergo limited skin testing or specific IgE measurements to reduce the current under-diagnosis of AR.
PMCID: PMC2807901  PMID: 19796208
allergic rhinitis; asthma; physician diagnosis; risk factor; skin test
21.  TSLP Polymorphisms are Associated with Asthma in a Sex-Specific Fashion 
Allergy  2010;65(12):1566-1575.
Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) have been associated with IgE (in girls) and asthma (in general). We sought to determine whether TSLP SNPs are associated with asthma in a sex-specific fashion.
We conducted regular and sex-stratified analyses of association between SNPs in TSLP and asthma in families of asthmatic children in Costa Rica. Significant findings were replicated in white and African-American participants in the Childhood Asthma Management Program, in African Americans in the Genomic Research on Asthma in the African Diaspora study, in whites and Hispanics in the Children’s Health Study, and in whites in the Framingham Heart Study (FHS).
Main Results
Two SNPs in TSLP (rs1837253 and rs2289276) were significantly associated with a reduced risk of asthma in combined analyses of all cohorts (p values of 2×10−5 and 1×10−5, respectively). In a sex-stratified analysis, the T allele of rs1837253 was significantly associated with a reduced risk of asthma in males only (p= 3×10−6). Alternately, the T allele of rs2289276 was significantly associated with a reduced risk of asthma in females only (p= 2×10−4). Findings for rs2289276 were consistent in all cohorts except the FHS.
TSLP variants are associated with asthma in a sex-specific fashion.
PMCID: PMC2970693  PMID: 20560908
asthma; genetic association; sex-specific; thymic stromal lymphopoietin; TSLP
22.  Serum Vitamin D Levels and Markers of Severity of Childhood Asthma in Costa Rica 
Rationale: Maternal vitamin D intake during pregnancy has been inversely associated with asthma symptoms in early childhood. However, no study has examined the relationship between measured vitamin D levels and markers of asthma severity in childhood.
Objectives: To determine the relationship between measured vitamin D levels and both markers of asthma severity and allergy in childhood.
Methods: We examined the relation between 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels (the major circulating form of vitamin D) and markers of allergy and asthma severity in a cross-sectional study of 616 Costa Rican children between the ages of 6 and 14 years. Linear, logistic, and negative binomial regressions were used for the univariate and multivariate analyses.
Measurements and Main Results: Of the 616 children with asthma, 175 (28%) had insufficient levels of vitamin D (<30 ng/ml). In multivariate linear regression models, vitamin D levels were significantly and inversely associated with total IgE and eosinophil count. In multivariate logistic regression models, a log10 unit increase in vitamin D levels was associated with reduced odds of any hospitalization in the previous year (odds ratio [OR], 0.05; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.004–0.71; P = 0.03), any use of antiinflammatory medications in the previous year (OR, 0.18; 95% CI, 0.05–0.67; P = 0.01), and increased airway responsiveness (a ≤8.58-μmol provocative dose of methacholine producing a 20% fall in baseline FEV1 [OR, 0.15; 95% CI, 0.024–0.97; P = 0.05]).
Conclusions: Our results suggest that vitamin D insufficiency is relatively frequent in an equatorial population of children with asthma. In these children, lower vitamin D levels are associated with increased markers of allergy and asthma severity.
PMCID: PMC2675563  PMID: 19179486
23.  Genome‐wide linkage analysis of pulmonary function in families of children with asthma in Costa Rica 
Thorax  2006;62(3):224-230.
Although asthma is highly prevalent among certain Hispanic subgroups, genetic determinants of asthma and asthma‐related traits have not been conclusively identified in Hispanic populations. A study was undertaken to identify genomic regions containing susceptibility loci for pulmonary function and bronchodilator responsiveness (BDR) in Costa Ricans.
Eight extended pedigrees were ascertained through schoolchildren with asthma in the Central Valley of Costa Rica. Short tandem repeat (STR) markers were genotyped throughout the genome at an average spacing of 8.2 cM. Multipoint variance component linkage analyses of forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) and FEV1/ forced vital capacity (FVC; both pre‐bronchodilator and post‐bronchodilator) and BDR were performed in these eight families (pre‐bronchodilator spirometry, n = 640; post‐bronchodilator spirometry and BDR, n = 624). Nine additional STR markers were genotyped on chromosome 7. Secondary analyses were repeated after stratification by cigarette smoking.
Among all subjects, the highest logarithm of the odds of linkage (LOD) score for FEV1 (post‐bronchodilator) was found on chromosome 7q34–35 (LOD = 2.45, including the additional markers). The highest LOD scores for FEV1/FVC (pre‐bronchodilator) and BDR were found on chromosomes 2q (LOD = 1.53) and 9p (LOD = 1.53), respectively. Among former and current smokers there was near‐significant evidence of linkage to FEV1/FVC (post‐bronchodilator) on chromosome 5p (LOD = 3.27) and suggestive evidence of linkage to FEV1 on chromosomes 3q (pre‐bronchodilator, LOD = 2.74) and 4q (post‐bronchodilator, LOD = 2.66).
In eight families of children with asthma in Costa Rica, there is suggestive evidence of linkage to FEV1 on chromosome 7q34–35. In these families, FEV1/FVC may be influenced by an interaction between cigarette smoking and a locus (loci) on chromosome 5p.
PMCID: PMC2117166  PMID: 17099076
24.  Sex-stratified Linkage Analysis Identifies a Female-specific Locus for IgE to Cockroach in Costa Ricans 
Rationale: The basis for gender influences on allergen-specific IgEs is unclear.
Objectives: To perform regular and sex-stratified genomewide linkage analyses of IgE to each of three allergens (Ascaris lumbricoides, Blatella germanica [German cockroach]), and Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus [dust mite]) and to conduct an association study of a candidate gene in a linked genomic region.
Methods: Genomewide linkage analyses of allergen-specific IgEs were conducted in 653 members of eight large families of Costa Rican children with asthma. An analysis of the association between single-nucleotide polymorphisms in thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) and IgE measurements was conducted in 417 parent–child trios in Costa Rica. Significant results were replicated in 470 families of white children in the Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP).
Measurements and Main Results: Among all subjects, there was suggestive evidence of linkage (LOD ⩾ 2.72) to IgE to Ascaris (on chromosome 7q) and IgE to dust mite (on chromosomes 7p and 12q). In a sex-stratified analysis, there was significant evidence of linkage to IgE to cockroach on chromosome 5q23 (peak LOD, 4.14 at 127 cM) in female subjects. TSLP is located within the 1.5 LOD-unit support interval for this linkage peak and has female-specific effects on lung disease in mice. In a sex-stratified analysis, the T allele of single-nucleotide polymorphism rs2289276 in TSLP was associated with reductions in IgE to cockroach (in Costa Rican girls) and total IgE (in girls in Costa Rica and in CAMP; P value for sex-by-genotype interaction, <0.01 in both studies).
Conclusions: Consistent with findings in murine models, a variant in TSLP may have female-specific effects on allergic phenotypes.
PMCID: PMC2292826  PMID: 18244952
immunoglobulin E; linkage; thymic stromal lymphopoietin; single-nucleotide polymorphisms
25.  Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease in Hispanics 
Hispanics are individuals whose ancestry can be traced to Spain and/or areas previously under Spanish control (e.g., Mexico, Puerto Rico). They are a rapidly growing subset of the population of the United States and are quite diverse in their racial ancestry, country of origin, area of residence, socioeconomic status, tobacco use, and access to health care. Current evidence suggests that the prevalence and morbidity of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) vary widely among Hispanic-American nations, with similar but limited findings among Hispanic subgroups in the United States. Potential reasons for such variation include differences in racial ancestry and genetic susceptibility, exposure to tobacco smoke and/or biomass smoke, access to health care, and disease management. Future studies of COPD in Hispanics should include large samples of subgroups that are well defined with regard to self-reported ethnicity, country of origin, area of residence, tobacco use, and socioeconomic status. Areas that need to be carefully examined include validation of COPD diagnoses for epidemiologic studies (e.g., by radiologic assessment), COPD in high-risk groups (e.g., Puerto Ricans), impact of biomass smoke (in rural areas) and air pollution (in urban areas) on COPD morbidity, effects of migration and acculturation on COPD prevalence and morbidity among Hispanic subgroups in the United States, development of reference values for spirometry, smoking cessation, and overcoming barriers to management. Public health measures, such as effective smoking prevention and cessation programs, reduction of air pollution and exposure to biomass smoke, and improved access to health care, would help reduce the burden of COPD among Hispanics in the United States and Latin America.
PMCID: PMC2258442  PMID: 18029789
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; genetics; Hispanics; risk factors

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