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Keywords:

  • asthma;
  • induced sputum;
  • migration;
  • epidemiology

Abstract

The prevalence of asthma symptoms varies markedly throughout the world. However, the asthma mechanisms involved are not defined. Studying the effects of migration can help identify the reasons for this geographic variation. The aims of this study were to examine the prevalence of asthma symptoms, airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR), and induced sputum eosinophils in adolescents who migrate to Australia. The study was conducted in Sydney, Australia, where adolescent students completed a video symptom questionnaire, hypertonic saline challenge, sputum induction, and allergy skin testing. The 211 students had widely different cultural backgrounds, including Asian, South Pacific, Middle Eastern, European, and African countries. Among adolescents who were migrants to Australia, the prevalence of asthma symptoms was higher than that reported using a similar methodology in their country of origin. Asthma symptom prevalence was related to residence time in Australia. The prevalence of wheeze was 17.2% in recent arrivals, 20.5% in adolescents living in Australia for >2 years, and 36.3% in those living all their lifetime in Australia (P = 0.013). For every year of residence in Australia, there was an 11% increase in prevalence of current wheeze (odds ratio, 1.11; P = 0.02). This effect was not related to atopy, AHR, or eosinophilic airway inflammation. Sputum neutrophils were elevated in recent arrivals. In conclusion, adolescents who migrate to Australia report increased asthma symptoms, compared to their country of origin, and asthma symptoms are further increased for every additional year of residence in Australia. The development of wheeze after migration to Australia was independent of eosinophilic inflammation and consistent with noneosinophilic asthma mechanisms. Pediatr Pulmonol. 2003; 36:209–215. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.