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The STOPPA Twin Study Explains the Exhaled Nitric Oxide and Asthma Link by Genetics and Sensitization

  • Björn Nordlund (a1) (a2) (a3), Cecilia Lundholm (a1), Vilhelmina Ullemar (a1), Marianne van Hage (a4), Anne K. Örtqvist (a1) and Catarina Almqvist (a1) (a2)...

Background: The link between asthma and exhaled nitric oxide (FENO) is not completely understood. The aim of this study was to estimate the association between FENO and asthma, taking genetics, sensitization, and inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) into account. Methods: A total of 681 twins (53% monozygotic [MZ] and 47% dizygotic [DZ]) from the population-based STOPPA study (mean age 12.6 years) were recruited and information on FENO (parts per billion), parental report of current asthma, sensitization to airborne allergens (Phadiatop; IgE ≥0.35 kUA/l), and ICS-treatment was collected. We estimated the association between FENO and asthma, sensitization, and ICS in all twins and within pairs (DZ and MZ) to address shared genetic and environmental factors. Linear regression of log-transformed FENO was used and results presented as exponentiated regression coefficients (exp[β]), with 95% confidence interval (CI). Results: We found an association between asthma and FENO in all twins, exp(β) 1.31 [1.11, 1.54]. In within-pairs analysis, the association was stronger within DZ pairs discordant for FENO, exp(β) 1.50 [1.19, 1.89], compared to MZ pairs, exp(β) 1.07 [0.84, 1.37], p = .049. There was no difference in FENO in non-sensitized children with asthma, compared to children with neither asthma nor sensitization, exp(β) 0.89 [0.77, 1.03]. However, increased FENO was associated with sensitization, exp(β) 1.48 [1.30, 1.69], and with sensitization together with asthma, exp(β) 1.98 [1.57, 2.51], in all twins and within DZ pairs discordant for FENO, but not in MZ pairs. The FENO asthma association remained in DZ pairs without regular ICS-treatment. Conclusions: The association between FENO and asthma is explained by genetics and sensitization.

Corresponding author
address for correspondence: Björn Nordlund, Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Box 281, Karolinska Institutet, SE-171 77 Stockholm, Sweden. E-mail:
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