• airway hypersensitivity;
  • classic asthma;
  • cough-variant asthma;
  • maximal airway response;
  • wheezing

Background: A significant proportion of patients diagnosed with cough-variant asthma eventually manifest classic asthma signs, such as wheezing and dyspnea. The aim of this study was to investigate whether the degree of airway hypersensitivity and/or the level of maximal airway response can predict the development of wheezing in subjects with cough-variant asthma.

Methods: At study initiation, a high-dose methacholine inhalation test was performed to measure provocative concentration causing a 20% fall (PC20) in forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) and maximal airway response. Each person was evaluated regularly every 3 months for 4 years and also on the occasion of wheezing being perceived for the first time.

Results: Of the 48 patients available in the follow-up period, 21 (Group 1) developed clinical wheezing, while 27 (Group 2) did not. There was no significant difference in PC20 levels between the two groups. The level of maximal airway response, however, was significantly higher in Group 1 than in Group 2. The score test for trend revealed a significant association between the future development of wheezing and the level of maximal airway response (P = 0.007), but not the level of methacholine PC20 (P = 0.423).

Conclusions: The level of maximal airway response, rather than the degree of airway hypersensitivity, may be an important risk factor for the future development of classic asthma in patients with cough-variant asthma.