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1.  Brachial Artery Responses to Ambient Pollution, Temperature, and Humidity in People with Type 2 Diabetes: A Repeated-Measures Study 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2014;122(3):242-248.
Background: Extreme weather and air pollution are associated with increased cardiovascular risk in people with diabetes.
Objectives: In a population with diabetes, we conducted a novel assessment of vascular brachial artery responses both to ambient pollution and to weather (temperature and water vapor pressure, a measure of humidity).
Methods: Sixty-four 49- to 85-year-old Boston residents with type 2 diabetes completed up to five study visits (279 repeated measures). Brachial artery diameter (BAD) was measured by ultrasound before and after brachial artery occlusion [i.e., flow-mediated dilation (FMD)] and before and after nitroglycerin-mediated dilation (NMD). Ambient concentrations of fine particulate mass (PM2.5), black carbon (BC), organic carbon (OC), elemental carbon, particle number, and sulfate were measured at our monitoring site; ambient concentrations of carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone were obtained from state monitors. Particle exposure in the home and during each trip to the clinic (home/trip exposure) was measured continuously and as a 5-day integrated sample. We used linear models with fixed effects for participants, adjusting for date, season, temperature, and water vapor pressure on the day of each visit, to estimate associations between our outcomes and interquartile range increases in exposure.
Results: Baseline BAD was negatively associated with particle pollution, including home/trip–integrated BC (–0.02 mm; 95% CI: –0.04, –0.003, for a 0.28 μg/m3 increase in BC), OC (–0.08 mm; 95% CI: –0.14, –0.03, for a 1.61 μg/m3 increase) as well as PM2.5, 5-day average ambient PM2.5, and BC. BAD was positively associated with ambient temperature and water vapor pressure. However, exposures were not consistently associated with FMD or NMD.
Conclusion: Brachial artery diameter, a predictor of cardiovascular risk, decreased in association with particle pollution and increased in association with ambient temperature in our study population of adults with type 2 diabetes.
Citation: Zanobetti A, Luttmann-Gibson H, Horton ES, Cohen A, Coull BA, Hoffmann B, Schwartz JD, Mittleman MA, Li Y, Stone PH, de Souza C, Lamparello B, Koutrakis P, Gold DR. 2014. Brachial artery responses to ambient pollution, temperature, and humidity in people with type 2 diabetes: a repeated-measures study. Environ Health Perspect 122:242–248;
PMCID: PMC3948021  PMID: 24398072
2.  Short-Term Changes in Ambient Temperature and Risk of Ischemic Stroke 
Despite consistent evidence of a higher short-term risk of cardiovascular mortality associated with ambient temperature, there have been discrepant findings on the association between temperature and ischemic stroke. Moreover, few studies have considered potential confounding by ambient fine particulate matter air pollution <2.5 μm in diameter (PM2.5) and none have examined the impact of temperature changes on stroke in the subsequent hours rather than days. The aim of this study was to evaluate whether changes in temperature trigger an ischemic stroke in the following hours and days and whether humid days are particularly harmful.
We reviewed the medical records of 1,705 patients residing in the metropolitan region of Boston, Mass., USA, who were hospitalized with neurologist-confirmed ischemic stroke, and we abstracted data on the time of symptom onset and clinical characteristics. We obtained hourly meteorological data from the National Weather Service station and hourly PM2.5 data from the Harvard ambient monitoring station. We used the time-stratified case-crossover design to assess the association between ischemic stroke and apparent temperature averaged over 1-7 days prior to stroke onset adjusting for PM2.5. We assessed whether differences in apparent temperature trigger a stroke within shorter time periods by examining the association between stroke onset and apparent temperature levels averaged in 2-hour increments prior to stroke onset (0-2 h through 36-38 h). We tested whether the association varied by health characteristics or by PM2.5, ozone or relative humidity.
The incidence rate ratio of ischemic stroke was 1.09 (95% confidence interval 1.01-1.18) following a 5°C decrement in average apparent temperature over the 2 days preceding symptom onset. The higher risk associated with cooler temperatures peaked in the first 14-34 h. There was no statistically significant difference in the association between temperature and ischemic stroke across seasons. The risk of ischemic stroke was not meaningfully different across subgroups of patients defined by health characteristics. The association between ischemic stroke and ambient temperature was stronger on days with higher levels of relative humidity.
Lower temperatures are associated with a higher risk of ischemic stroke onset in both warm and cool seasons, and the risk is higher on days with higher levels of relative humidity. Based on this study and the body of literature on ambient temperature and cardiovascular events, identifying methods for mitigating cardiovascular risk may be warranted.
PMCID: PMC3934677  PMID: 24575110
Ischemic stroke; Environment; Particulate matter; Epidemiology

3.  Food Allergy and Increased Asthma Morbidity in a School-Based Inner-City Asthma Study 
Children with asthma have increased prevalence of food allergies. The relationship between food allergy and asthma morbidity is unclear.
We aimed to investigate the presence of food allergy as an independent risk factor for increased asthma morbidity using the School Inner-City Asthma (SICAS), a prospective study evaluating risk factors and asthma morbidity among urban children.
We prospectively surveyed 300 children from inner-city schools with physician-diagnosed asthma, followed by clinical evaluation. Food allergies were reported including symptoms experienced within one hour of food ingestion. Asthma morbidity, pulmonary function, and resource utilization were compared between children with food allergies and without.
Seventy-three (24%) of 300 asthmatic children surveyed had physician- diagnosed food allergy, and 36 (12%) had multiple food allergies. Those with any food allergy independently had increased risk of hospitalization (OR: 2.35, 95% CI: 1.30–4.24, p=0.005), and use of controller medication (OR: 1.99, 95% CI: 1.06–3.74, p=0.03). Those with multiple food allergies also had an independently higher risk of hospitalization in the past year (OR: 4.10 95% CI: 1.47–11.45, p=0.007), asthma-related hospitalization (OR: 3.52, 95% CI: 1.12–11.03, p=0.03), controller medication use (OR: 2.38 95% CI: 1.00–5.66, p=0.05), and more provider visits (median 4.5 versus 3.0, p=0.008). Furthermore, lung function was significantly lower (% predicted FEV1 and FEV1/FVC ratios) in both food allergy category groups.
Food allergy is highly prevalent in inner-city school-aged children with asthma. Children with food allergies have increased asthma morbidity and health resource utilization with decreased lung function, and this association is stronger in those with multiple food allergies.
PMCID: PMC3777668  PMID: 24058900
asthma; food allergy; hospitalization; morbidity; prevalence; resource utilization; risk
5.  Exposures to Molds in School Classrooms of Children with Asthma 
Indoor air  2003;13(1):53-64.
Students spend a large portion of their day in classrooms which may be a source of mold exposure. We examined the diversity and concentrations of molds in inner-city schools and described differences between classrooms within the same school.
Classroom airborne mold spores, collected over a 2 day period, were measured twice during the school year by direct microscopy.
There were 180 classroom air samples collected from 12 schools. Mold was present in 100% of classrooms. Classrooms within the same school had differing mold levels and mold diversity scores. The total mold per classroom was 176.6 ± 4.2 spores/m3 (geometric mean ± standard deviation) and ranged from 11.2 to 16,288.5 spores/m3. Mold diversity scores for classroom samples ranged from 1 to 19 (7.7 ± 3.5). The classroom accounted for the majority of variance (62%) in the total mold count, and for the majority of variance (56%) in the mold diversity score versus the school. The species with the highest concentrations and found most commonly included Cladosporium (29.3 ± 4.2 spores/m3), Penicillium/Aspergillus (15.0 ± 5.4 spores/m3), smut spores (12.6 ± 4.0 spores/m3), and basidiospores (6.6 ± 7.1 spores/m3).
Our study found that the school is a source of mold exposure, but particularly the classroom microenvironment varies in quantity of spores and species among classrooms within the same school. We also verified that visible mold may be a predictor for higher mold spore counts. Further studies are needed to determine the clinical significance of mold exposure relative to asthma morbidity in sensitized and non-sensitized asthmatic children.
PMCID: PMC3782748  PMID: 12608926
Asthma; children; fungus; inner-city; mold; school
6.  Modeling the Association Between Particle Constituents of Air Pollution and Health Outcomes 
American Journal of Epidemiology  2012;176(4):317-326.
There is increasing interest in evaluating the association between specific fine-particle (particles with aerodynamic diameters less than 2.5 µm; PM2.5) constituents and adverse health outcomes rather than focusing solely on the impact of total PM2.5. Because PM2.5 may be related to both constituent concentration and health outcomes, constituents that are more strongly correlated with PM2.5 may appear more closely related to adverse health outcomes than other constituents even if they are not inherently more toxic. Therefore, it is important to properly account for potential confounding by PM2.5 in these analyses. Usually, confounding is due to a factor that is distinct from the exposure and outcome. However, because constituents are a component of PM2.5, standard covariate adjustment is not appropriate. Similar considerations apply to source-apportioned concentrations and studies assessing either short-term or long-term impacts of constituents. Using data on 18 constituents and data from 1,060 patients admitted to a Boston medical center with ischemic stroke in 2003–2008, the authors illustrate several options for modeling the association between constituents and health outcomes that account for the impact of PM2.5. Although the different methods yield results with different interpretations, the relative rankings of the association between constituents and ischemic stroke were fairly consistent across models.
PMCID: PMC3491968  PMID: 22850792
case crossover; epidemiology; ischemic stroke; particle constituents; particulate matter; stroke
7.  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
8.  Multiple Microbial Exposures in the Home May Protect Against Asthma or Allergy in Childhood 
Experimental animal data on the gram-negative bacterial biomarker endotoxin suggest that persistence, dose and timing of exposure are likely to influence its effects on allergy and wheeze. In epidemiologic studies, endotoxin may be a sentinel marker for a microbial milieu, including gram-positive as well as gram-negative bacteria, that may influence allergy and asthma through components (pathogen-associated molecular patterns) that signal through innate Toll-like receptor pathways.
To determine the influence of current gram-negative and gram-positive bacterial exposures on asthma and allergic sensitization in school-aged children.
We examined the relationship between bacterial biomarkers and current asthma and allergic sensitization in 377 school-aged children in a birth-cohort study. We then evaluated the effects of school-age endotoxin, after controlling for exposure in early life.
Exposure to gram-negative bacteria was inversely associated with asthma and allergic sensitization at school-age (for > median endotoxin: prevalence odds ratio [POR] =0.34 [95% CI=0.2 to 0.7] for current asthma and prevalence ratio [PR]=0.77 [95% CI=0.6 to 0.97] for allergic sensitization). In contrast, elevated gram-positive bacteria in the bed was inversely associated with current asthma (POR= 0.41, 95% CI=0.2 to 0.9) but not with allergic sensitization (POR=1.07, 95% CI=0.8 to 1.4). School-age endotoxin exposure remained protective in models for allergic disease adjusted for early-life endotoxin.
Both gram-negative and gram-positive bacterial exposures are associated with decreased asthma symptoms, but may act through different mechanisms to confer protection. Endotoxin exposure in later childhood is not simply a surrogate of early life exposure; it has independent protective effects on allergic disease.
PMCID: PMC3730840  PMID: 20412140
childhood asthma; allergic sensitization; endotoxin; peptidoglycan
9.  Effect of physical activity on heart rate variability in normal weight, overweight and obese subjects: results from the SAPALDIA study 
Many studies have demonstrated an association of both a sedentary lifestyle and a high body mass index (BMI) with greater risk for cardiovascular disease. Within the prospective SAPALDIA cohort (Swiss cohort study on Air Pollution and Lung Diseases in Adults), we investigated whether regular exercise was protective against reduced heart rate variability (HRV), a clinically relevant predictor of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, and whether adverse effects of obesity and weight gain on HRV were modified by regular exercise. 24-hour electrocardiograms were recorded in 1712 randomly selected SAPALDIA participants aged ≥50, for whom BMI was assessed in the years 1991 and 2001–2003. Other examinations included an interview investigating health status (especially respiratory and cardiovascular health and health relevant behaviours including physical activity) and measurements of blood pressure, body height and weight. The association between regular physical activity and HRV and interactions with BMI and BMI change was assessed in multivariable linear regression analyses.
Compared to sedentary obese subjects, SDNN (standard deviation of all RR intervals) was 14% (95% CI: 8–20%) higher in sedentary normal weight subjects; 19% (CI: 12–27%) higher in normal weight subjects exercising regularly ≥ 2h/week; and 19% (CI:11–28%) higher in obese subjects exercising regularly ≥ 2h/week.
Compared with sedentary subjects who gained weight, those who gained weight but did exercise regularly had a 13% higher SDNN (CI: 7–20%).
Regular physical exercise has strong beneficial effects on cardiac autonomic nervous function and thus appears to offset the negative effect of obesity on HRV.
PMCID: PMC3705554  PMID: 18597107
heart rate variability; autonomic nervous system; body mass index; obesity; body weight change; exercise
10.  Spatial Cluster Detection for Longitudinal Outcomes using Administrative Regions 
This manuscript proposes a new spatial cluster detection method for longitudinal outcomes that detects neighborhoods and regions with elevated rates of disease while controlling for individual level confounders. The proposed method, CumResPerm, utilizes cumulative geographic residuals through a permutation test to detect potential clusters which are are defined as sets of administrative regions, such as a town, or group of administrative regions. Previous cluster detection methods are not able to incorporate individual level data including covariate adjustment, while still being able to define potential clusters using informative neighborhood or town boundaries. Often it is of interest to detect such spatial clusters because individuals residing in a town may have similar environmental exposures or socioeconomic backgrounds due to administrative reasons, such as zoning laws. Therefore these boundaries can be very informative and more relevant than arbitrary clusters such as the standard circle or square. Application of the CumResPerm method will be illustrated by the Home Allergens and Asthma prospective cohort study analyzing the relationship between area or neighborhood residence and repeated measured outcome, occurrence of wheeze in the last 6 months, while taking into account mobile locations.
PMCID: PMC3705764  PMID: 23847392
Asthma; Cluster Detection; Cumulative Residuals; Repeated Measures; Wheeze
11.  Association of variants in innate immune genes with asthma and eczema 
The innate immune pathway is important in the pathogenesis of asthma and eczema. However, only a few variants in these genes have been associated with either disease. We investigate the association between polymorphisms of genes in the innate immune pathway with childhood asthma and eczema. In addition, we compare individual associations with those discovered using a multivariate approach.
Using a novel method, case control based association testing (C2BAT), 569 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 44 innate immune genes were tested for association with asthma and eczema in children from the Boston Home Allergens and Asthma Study and the Connecticut Childhood Asthma Study. The screening algorithm was used to identify the top SNPs associated with asthma and eczema. We next investigated the interaction of innate immune variants with asthma and eczema risk using Bayesian networks.
After correction for multiple comparisons, 7 SNPs in 6 genes (CARD25, TGFB1, LY96, ACAA1, DEFB1, and IFNG) were associated with asthma (adjusted p-value<0.02), while 5 SNPs in 3 different genes (CD80, STAT4, and IRAKI) were significantly associated with eczema (adjusted p-value < 0.02). None of these SNPs were associated with both asthma and eczema. Bayesian network analysis identified 4 SNPs that were predictive of asthma and 10 SNPs that predicted eczema. Of the genes identified using Bayesian networks, only CD80 was associated with eczema in the single-SNP study. Using novel methodology that allows for screening and replication in the same population, we have identified associations of innate immune genes with asthma and eczema. Bayesian network analysis suggests that additional SNPs influence disease susceptibility via SNP interactions.
Our findings suggest that innate immune genes contribute to the pathogenesis of asthma and eczema, and that these diseases likely have different genetic determinants.
PMCID: PMC3412627  PMID: 22192168
asthma; Bayesian network; genetic association; eczema; innate immunity
12.  Maternal intestinal flora and wheeze in early childhood 
Increasing evidence links altered intestinal flora in infancy to eczema and asthma. No studies have investigated the influence of maternal intestinal flora on wheezing and eczema in early childhood.
To investigate the link between maternal intestinal flora during pregnancy and development of wheeze and eczema in infancy.
Sixty pregnant women from the Boston area gave stool samples during the third trimester of their pregnancy and answered questions during pregnancy about their own health, and about their children’s health when the child was 2 and 6 months of age. Quantitative culture was performed on stool samples and measured in log10colony-forming units(CFU)/gram stool. Primary outcomes included infant wheeze and eczema in the first 6 months of life. Atopic wheeze, defined as wheeze and eczema, was analyzed as a secondary outcome.
In multivariate models adjusted for breastfeeding, daycare attendance and maternal atopy, higher counts of maternal total aerobes (TA) and enterococci (E) were associated with increased risk of infant wheeze (TA: OR 2.32 for 1 log increase in CFU/g stool [95% CI 1.22, 4.42]; E: OR 1.57 [95% CI 1.06, 2.31]). No organisms were associated with either eczema or atopic wheeze.
Conclusions & Clinical Relevance
In our cohort, higher maternal total aerobes and enterococci were related to increased risk of infant wheeze. Maternal intestinal flora may be an important environmental exposure in early immune system development.
PMCID: PMC3428746  PMID: 22909161
infant wheeze; eczema; asthma; microbiota; intestinal flora; maternal flora
13.  Ozone exposure, vitamin C intake, and genetic susceptibility of asthmatic children in Mexico City: a cohort study 
Respiratory Research  2013;14(1):14.
We previously reported that asthmatic children with GSTM1 null genotype may be more susceptible to the acute effect of ozone on the small airways and might benefit from antioxidant supplementation. This study aims to assess the acute effect of ozone on lung function (FEF25-75) in asthmatic children according to dietary intake of vitamin C and the number of putative risk alleles in three antioxidant genes: GSTM1, GSTP1 (rs1695), and NQO1 (rs1800566).
257 asthmatic children from two cohort studies conducted in Mexico City were included. Stratified linear mixed models with random intercepts and random slopes on ozone were used. Potential confounding by ethnicity was assessed. Analyses were conducted under single gene and genotype score approaches.
The change in FEF25-75 per interquartile range (60 ppb) of ozone in persistent asthmatic children with low vitamin C intake and GSTM1 null was −91.2 ml/s (p = 0.06). Persistent asthmatic children with 4 to 6 risk alleles and low vitamin C intake showed an average decrement in FEF25-75 of 97.2 ml/s per 60 ppb of ozone (p = 0.03). In contrast in children with 1 to 3 risk alleles, acute effects of ozone on FEF25-75 did not differ by vitamin C intake.
Our results provide further evidence that asthmatic children predicted to have compromised antioxidant defense by virtue of genetic susceptibility combined with deficient antioxidant intake may be at increased risk of adverse effects of ozone on pulmonary function.
PMCID: PMC3579760  PMID: 23379631
Air pollution; Asthmatic children; Antioxidant genes; Mexico City; Vitamin C
14.  Controlled Exposure Study of Air Pollution and T-Wave Alternans in Volunteers without Cardiovascular Disease 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2012;120(8):1157-1161.
Background: Epidemiological studies have assessed T-wave alternans (TWA) as a possible mechanism of cardiac arrhythmias related to air pollution in high-risk subjects and have reported associations with increased TWA magnitude.
Objective: In this controlled human exposure study, we assessed the impact of exposure to concentrated ambient particulate matter (CAP) and ozone (O3) on T-wave alternans in resting volunteers without preexisting cardiovascular disease.
Methods: Seventeen participants without preexisting cardiovascular disease were randomized to filtered air (FA), CAP (150 μg/m3), O3 (120 ppb), or combined CAP + O3 exposures for 2 hr. Continuous electrocardiograms (ECGs) were recorded at rest and T-wave alternans (TWA) was computed by modified moving average analysis with QRS alignment for the artifact-free intervals of 20 beats along the V2 and V5 leads. Exposure-induced changes in the highest TWA magnitude (TWAMax) were estimated for the first and last 5 min of each exposure (TWAMax_Early and TWAMax_Late respectively). ΔTWAMax (Late–Early) were compared among exposure groups using analysis of variance.
Results: Mean ± SD values for ΔTWAMax were –2.1 ± 0.4, –2.7 ± 1.1, –1.9 ± 1.5, and –1.2 ± 1.5 in FA, CAP, O3, and CAP + O3 exposure groups, respectively. No significant differences were observed between pollutant exposures and FA.
Conclusion: In our study of 17 volunteers who had no preexisting cardiovascular disease, we did not observe significant changes in T-wave alternans after 2-hr exposures to CAP, O3, or combined CAP + O3. This finding, however, does not preclude the possibility of pollution-related effects on TWA at elevated heart rates, such as during exercise, or the possibility of delayed responses.
PMCID: PMC3440072  PMID: 22552907
air pollution; arrhythmia; controlled exposure; ozone; particulate matter; T-wave alternans
15.  Umbilical cord plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration and immune function at birth: the Urban Environment and Childhood Asthma (URECA) study 
Recent studies have reported conflicting data on the association between maternal intake of vitamin D during pregnancy and asthma.
Assess the influence of prenatal vitamin D status on immune function at birth.
In an inner-city birth cohort of 568 newborns, 520 of whom had at least one atopic parent, we measured umbilical cord (UC) plasma concentration of 25-hydroxy vitamin D (25(OH)D) and the cytokine responses of UC blood mononuclear cells (UCMCs) to stimuli including phytohemaglutinin (PHA), lipopolysaccharide (LPS), and peptidoglycan (PG). In a subset, UCMC expression of regulatory T-cell markers and the suppressive activity of CD4+CD25+ UCMCs was measured.
The 25th, 50th, and 75th percentiles of UC plasma 25(OH)D level were 15.0, 20.2, and 25.6 ng/mL, respectively. Most cytokine responses of UCMC were not correlated with UC 25(OH)D concentration; however, IFN-γ release after LPS stimulation was weakly positively correlated with UC 25(OH)D concentration (r = 0.11, p =0.01). PHA responses were not significantly correlated with 25(OH)D concentration. The UC plasma 25(OH)D concentration was inversely related to the number of CD25+ (r= -0.20, p=0.06), CD25Bright (r= -0.21, p=0.05), and CD25+FoxP3 (r= -0.29, p=0.06) cells as a proportion of CD4+ T cells in UC blood (r = -0.26, p = 0.04) but not to the suppressive activity of CD4+CD25+ cells (r=0.17, p=0.22).
Conclusion and Clinical Relevance
UC 25(OH)D concentration was not correlated with most UCMC cytokine responses to multiple stimuli. There was a suggestion of a weakly positive correlation with IFN-γ release after LPS stimulation. The proportions of CD25+, CD25bright, and CD25+FoxP3 cells to total CD4+ T cells were inversely correlated with UC 25(OH)D concentration. Our findings suggest that higher vitamin D levels at birth may be associated with a lower number of T regulatory cells. Vitamin D status in utero may influence immune regulation in early life.
PMCID: PMC3093441  PMID: 21481021
16.  Gut Microbiota, Probiotics, and Vitamin D: Interrelated Exposures Influencing Allergy, Asthma, and Obesity? 
Current evidence supports a role for gut colonization in promoting and maintaining a balanced immune response in early life. An altered or less diverse gut microbiota composition has been associated with atopic diseases and/or obesity. Moreover, certain gut microbial strain or strains have been shown to inhibit or attenuate immune responses associated with chronic inflammation in experimental models. However, there has been no fully adequate longitudinal study of the relation between the neonatal gut microbiota and the development of allergic diseases (e.g., atopic asthma) and obesity. The emergence of promising experimental studies has led to several clinical trials of probiotics (live bacteria given orally that allow for intestinal colonization) in humans. Probiotic trials thus far have failed to show a consistent preventive or therapeutic effect on asthma or obesity. Previous trials of probiotics have been limited by small sample size, short duration of follow-up, or lack state-of-the art analyses of the gut microbiota. Finally, there is emerging evidence that the vitamin D pathway may be important in gut homeostasis and in the signaling between the microbiota and the host. Given the complexity of the gut micriobiota, additional research is needed before we can confidently establish whether its manipulation in early life can prevent or treat asthma and/or obesity.
PMCID: PMC3085575  PMID: 21419479
microbiota; asthma; obesity; allergic; eczema; vitamin D; probiotics; cytokines
17.  Allergen exposure modifies the relation of sensitization to FENO levels in children at risk for allergy and asthma 
Studies on airway inflammation, measured as fraction exhaled nitric oxide (FENO), have focused on its relation to control of asthma, but the contribution of allergen exposure to elevation of FENO is unknown.
We evaluated (1) whether FENO was elevated in children with allergic sensitization or asthma; (2) whether specific allergen exposure increased FENO levels in sensitized, but not in unsensitized children; and (3) whether sedentary behavior increased FENO, independent of allergen exposures.
At age 12, in a birth cohort of children with parental history of allergy or asthma, we measured bed dust allergen (dust mite, cat, cockroach) by ELISA; specific allergic sensitization primarily by specific IgE ; and respiratory disease (current asthma, rhinitis, and wheeze) and hours of TV viewing/video game playing by questionnaire. Children performed spirometry maneuvers before and after bronchodilator responses, and had FENO measured using electrochemical detection methods (NIOX MINO).
FENO was elevated in children with current asthma (32.2 ppb), wheeze (27.0 ppb), or rhinitis (23.2ppb) as compared to individuals without these respective symptoms/diagnoses (16.4 ppb to 16.6 ppb, p< 0.005 for all comparisons). Allergic sensitization to indoor allergens (cat, dog, dust mite) predicted higher levels of FENO, and explained one third of the variability of FENO. FENO levels were highest in children both sensitized and exposed to dust mite. Greater than 10 hours of weekday TV viewing was associated with a 0.64 log increase in FENO, after controlling indoor allergen exposure, BMI and allergic sensitization.
Allergen exposures and sedentary behavior (TV viewing/ video game playing), may increase airway inflammation, measured as FENO.
PMCID: PMC3137133  PMID: 21463890
Asthma; dust mite; cat; allergens; exhaled NO; allergic sensitization; home environment
18.  Opposing Effects of Particle Pollution, Ozone, and Ambient Temperature on Arterial Blood Pressure 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2011;120(2):241-246.
Background: Diabetes increases the risk of hypertension and orthostatic hypotension and raises the risk of cardiovascular death during heat waves and high pollution episodes.
Objective: We examined whether short-term exposures to air pollution (fine particles, ozone) and heat resulted in perturbation of arterial blood pressure (BP) in persons with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM).
Methods: We conducted a panel study in 70 subjects with T2DM, measuring BP by automated oscillometric sphygmomanometer and pulse wave analysis every 2 weeks on up to five occasions (355 repeated measures). Hourly central site measurements of fine particles, ozone, and meteorology were conducted. We applied linear mixed models with random participant intercepts to investigate the association of fine particles, ozone, and ambient temperature with systolic, diastolic, and mean arterial BP in a multipollutant model, controlling for season, meteorological variables, and subject characteristics.
Results: An interquartile increase in ambient fine particle mass [particulate matter (PM) with an aerodynamic diameter of ≤ 2.5 μm (PM2.5)] and in the traffic component black carbon in the previous 5 days (3.54 and 0.25 μg/m3, respectively) predicted increases of 1.4 mmHg [95% confidence interval (CI): 0.0, 2.9 mmHg] and 2.2 mmHg (95% CI: 0.4, 4.0 mmHg) in systolic BP (SBP) at the population geometric mean, respectively. In contrast, an interquartile increase in the 5-day mean of ozone (13.3 ppb) was associated with a 5.2 mmHg (95% CI: –8.6, –1.8 mmHg) decrease in SBP. Higher temperatures were associated with a marginal decrease in BP.
Conclusions: In subjects with T2DM, PM was associated with increased BP, and ozone was associated with decreased BP. These effects may be clinically important in patients with already compromised autoregulatory function.
PMCID: PMC3279434  PMID: 22020729
air pollution; ambient temperature; blood pressure; diabetes mellitus; epidemiology; ozone; particles
19.  Higher adiposity in infancy associated with recurrent wheeze in a prospective cohort of children 
Few prospective data link early childhood adiposity with asthma-related symptoms.
We sought to examine the associations of weight-for-length (WFL) at age 6 months with incidence of wheezing by age 3 years.
We studied 932 children in a prospective cohort of children. The main outcome was recurrent wheezing, which was defined as parents’ report of wheezing between 2 and 3 years of age plus wheezing in either year 1 or 2 of life. Secondary outcomes included any wheezing from 6 months to 3 years and current asthma. We used multiple logistic regression to examine associations of 6-month WFL z scores with these outcomes.
At 6 months, the infants’ mean WFL z score was 0.68 (SD, 0.94; range −2.96 to 3.24). By age 3 years, 14% of children had recurrent wheezing. After adjustment for a variety of potential confounders, we found that each 1-unit increment in 6-month WFL z score was associated with greater odds of recurrent wheezing (odds ratio [OR], 1.46; 95% CI, 1.11–1.91) and any wheezing (OR, 1.23; 95% CI, 1.03–1.48). We observed a weaker association between 6-month WFL z score and current asthma (OR, 1.22; 95% CI, 0.94–1.59).
Infants with higher WFL z scores at 6 months of age had a greater risk of recurrent wheezing by age 3 years. It is unclear whether the relationship of infant adiposity and early-life wheeze extends to allergic asthma or wheeze that can persist into later childhood. Our findings suggest that early interventions to prevent excess infant adiposity might help reduce children’s risk of asthma-related symptoms.
PMCID: PMC3253368  PMID: 18466784
Asthma; wheeze; adiposity; children; prospective study
20.  The School Inner-City Asthma Study (SICAS): Design, Methods, and Lessons Learned 
The Journal of Asthma  2011;48(10):1007-1014.
Children spend a significant amount of time in school. Little is known about the role of allergen exposure in school environments and asthma morbidity.
The School Inner-City Asthma (SICAS) is an NIH funded prospective study evaluating the school/classroom specific risk factors and asthma morbidity among urban children
This paper describes the design, methods, and important lessons learned from this extensive investigation. A single center is recruiting 500 elementary school aged children, all of whom attend inner-city, metropolitan schools. The primary hypothesis is that exposure to common indoor allergens in the classroom will increase the risk of asthma morbidity in children with asthma, even after controlling for home allergen exposures. The protocol includes screening surveys of entire schools and baseline eligibility assessments obtained in the spring prior to the academic year. Extensive baseline clinical visits are being conducted among eligible children with asthma during the summer prior to the academic school year. Environmental classroom/school assessments including settled dust and air sampling for allergen, mold, air pollution, and inspection data are collected twice during the academic school year and one home dust sample linked to the enrolled student. Clinical outcomes are measured every 3 months during the academic school year.
The overall goal of SICAS is to complete the first study of its kind to better understand school-specific urban environmental factors on childhood asthma morbidity. We also discuss the unique challenges related to school-based urban research and lessons being learned from recruiting such a cohort.
PMCID: PMC3220801  PMID: 22010992
22.  Associations of PM10 with Sleep and Sleep-disordered Breathing in Adults from Seven U.S. Urban Areas 
Rationale: Sleep-disordered breathing (SDB), the recurrent episodic disruption of normal breathing during sleep, affects as much as 17% of U.S. adults, and may be more prevalent in poor urban environments. SDB and air pollution have been linked to increased cardiovascular diseases and mortality, but the association between pollution and SDB is poorly understood.
Objectives: We used data from the Sleep Heart Health Study (SHHS), a U.S. multicenter cohort study assessing cardiovascular and other consequences of SDB, to examine whether particulate air matter less than 10 μm in aerodynamic diameter (PM10) was associated with SDB among persons 39 years of age and older.
Methods: Using baseline data from SHHS urban sites, outcomes included the following: the respiratory disturbance index (RDI); percentage of sleep time at less than 90% O2 saturation; and sleep efficiency, measured by overnight in-home polysomnography. We applied a fixed-effect model containing a city effect, controlling for potential predictors. In all models we included both the 365-day moving averages of PM10 and temperature (long-term effects) and the differences between the daily measures of these two predictors and their 365-day average (short-term effects).
Measurements and Main Results: In summer, increases in RDI or percentage of sleep time at less than 90% O2 saturation, and decreases in sleep efficiency, were all associated with increases in short-term variation in PM10. Over all seasons, we found that increased RDI was associated with an 11.5% (95% confidence interval: 1.96, 22.01) increase per interquartile range increase (25.5°F) in temperature.
Conclusions: Reduction in air pollution exposure may decrease the severity of SDB and nocturnal hypoxemia and may improve cardiac risk.
PMCID: PMC2949406  PMID: 20508218
particulate matter; sleep-disordered breathing; sleep architecture
23.  Maternal dietary pattern during pregnancy is not associated with recurrent wheeze in children 
The rise in asthma prevalence over the last few decades may be due changes in pre-natal or early life environment including maternal diet during pregnancy. Previous studies have found associations between individual foods or nutrients consumed during pregnancy and asthma or wheeze in children, but these may be confounded by overall dietary pattern.
To determine if overall maternal dietary pattern during pregnancy is associated with recurrent wheeze in children.
1376 mother-infant pairs from Project Viva, a longitudinal pre-birth cohort, who had responses for food frequency questionnaires in the 1st and 2nd trimester and outcome data at 3 years of age were included. Multivariable logistic regression was used to look at associations between dietary pattern and the primary outcome of recurrent wheeze at 3 years. Overall dietary pattern was examined using Mediterranean diet score, Alternate Healthy Eating Index modified for pregnancy (AHEI-P), and principal components analysis to look at Western and Prudent diets.
None of these dietary patterns was associated with the primary outcome of recurrent wheeze in children in either the crude or in the multivariable models (multivariable model: OR per one point increase Mediterranean diet 0.98 [95% CI 0.89, 1.08] AHEI-P 1.07 [0.87, 1.30] Prudent 1.02 [0.83, 1.26] Western 0.98 [0.81, 1.19]).
Overall dietary pattern during pregnancy is not associated with recurrent wheeze in this cohort. Maternal intake of individual nutrients may be more important determinants ofoffspring wheeze-associated illness than is dietary pattern.
PMCID: PMC2917539  PMID: 20584543
asthma; dietary pattern; Mediterranean diet; healthy diet; principal components; childhood wheeze; pregnancy
24.  T-wave Alternans, Air Pollution and Traffic in High-risk Subjects 
The American journal of cardiology  2009;104(5):665-670.
Particulate pollution has been linked to risk of cardiac death; possible mechanisms include pollution-related increases in cardiac electrical instability. T-wave alternans (TWA) is a marker of cardiac electrical instability measured as differences in the magnitude between adjacent T waves. In a repeated-measures study of 48 patients aged 43-75 years, we investigated associations of ambient and home indoor particulate pollution including black carbon (BC) and report of traffic exposure, with changes in half-hourly maximum TWA (TWA-MAX), measured by 24 hour Holter electrocardiogram monitoring. Each patient was observed up to 4 times within one year after percutaneous intervention for myocardial infarction, acute coronary syndrome without infarction, or stable coronary artery disease for a total of 5,830 half-hour observations. Diary data for each half-hour period defined whether the patient was home or not home, or in traffic. Increases in TWA-MAX were independently associated both with the previous 2-h mean ambient BC (2.1%; 95% C.I.: 0.9-3.3) and with being in traffic in the previous 2 hours (6.1%; 95% C.I.: 3.4-8.8). When subjects were home, indoor home BC effects were largest and most precise; when subjects were away from home, ambient central site BC effects were strongest. Increases in pollution increased the odds of TWA-MAX ≥ 75th percentile (OR 1.4; 95% CI: 1.2-1.6 for 1 μg/m3 increase in 6-h mean BC). In conclusion, following hospitalization for coronary artery disease, being in traffic, and short-term ambient or indoor BC exposures increase TWA, a marker of cardiac electrical instability.
PMCID: PMC3139397  PMID: 19699342
Air pollution; coronary disease; myocardial infarction; T-wave alternans; circadian rhythm
25.  Wavelet-based functional linear mixed models: an application to measurement error–corrected distributed lag models 
Biostatistics (Oxford, England)  2010;11(3):432-452.
Frequently, exposure data are measured over time on a grid of discrete values that collectively define a functional observation. In many applications, researchers are interested in using these measurements as covariates to predict a scalar response in a regression setting, with interest focusing on the most biologically relevant time window of exposure. One example is in panel studies of the health effects of particulate matter (PM), where particle levels are measured over time. In such studies, there are many more values of the functional data than observations in the data set so that regularization of the corresponding functional regression coefficient is necessary for estimation. Additional issues in this setting are the possibility of exposure measurement error and the need to incorporate additional potential confounders, such as meteorological or co-pollutant measures, that themselves may have effects that vary over time. To accommodate all these features, we develop wavelet-based linear mixed distributed lag models that incorporate repeated measures of functional data as covariates into a linear mixed model. A Bayesian approach to model fitting uses wavelet shrinkage to regularize functional coefficients. We show that, as long as the exposure error induces fine-scale variability in the functional exposure profile and the distributed lag function representing the exposure effect varies smoothly in time, the model corrects for the exposure measurement error without further adjustment. Both these conditions are likely to hold in the environmental applications we consider. We examine properties of the method using simulations and apply the method to data from a study examining the association between PM, measured as hourly averages for 1–7 days, and markers of acute systemic inflammation. We use the method to fully control for the effects of confounding by other time-varying predictors, such as temperature and co-pollutants.
PMCID: PMC2883305  PMID: 20156988
Air pollution; Functional data analysis; Markov chain Monte Carlo; Mixture prior; Panel study; Particulate matter; Wavelets

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