Background Sensitization and exposure to dust-mite antigens are causative factors in the development and exacerbation of asthma. Impermeable bedding encasements are considered a first-line treatment to reduce dust-mite antigen exposure in clinical asthma-management guidelines. Public-health recommendations for environmental asthma treatments should be based on the weight of evidence supporting the reliability of environmental interventions so that uncertainties regarding their effectiveness can be accurately communicated to patients, and so that limited public-health resources can be most effectively utilized.
Objective To evaluate the strength of a clinical-trial evidence supporting the efficacy of bedding encasements as an asthma treatment.
Methods A narrative review was conducted of all clinical trials involving bedding encasement for the treatment of asthma. Collective statistical analyses were also performed to characterize the quantitative effect of bedding encasement on dust-mite allergen exposure and bronchial hyper-responsiveness (BHR) when used by asthma patients.
Results Over 30 clinical trials were reviewed. Of those studies reporting adequate exposure and BHR results, four reported significant reduction in dust-mite allergen exposure and concomitant BHR reduction in active-treatment groups using bedding encasements. In 10 studies, mite-allergen exposure was reportedly decreased during the study, but BHR was not changed in the active-treatment group or was reduced to a similar degree in the active-treatment and control groups. Five other studies reported a lack of significant effect of the intervention on exposure and BHR. Collective paired analyses found that the effect of bedding encasement on allergen exposure and BHR tended toward only a modest, non-significant improvement. Collectively, effects of bedding encasement on BHR and dust-mite allergen exposure were modestly correlated only when the baseline exposure was above 2 μg Type 1 antigen per gram settled dust.
Conclusion Although bedding encasement might be an effective asthma treatment under some conditions, when implemented in clinical trials by asthma patients, its effectiveness is inconsistent and appears to be, at best, modest. Therefore, its significance as a reliable asthma management modality for any individual asthma patient is uncertain. Where resource constraints are significant, targeting the use of variably effective interventions such as bedding encasements toward those patient sub-populations most likely to derive substantial benefit may gain the largest net public-health benefit.