Children with elevated levels of exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO) are prone to develop asthma and this is true of especially those who have no family history of the disease.
According to findings of the study, conducted at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, FeNO may be a useful biomarker for identifying children at risk for the disease, and in developing strategies for preventing asthma.
Researchers found that children with the highest levels of FeNO were more than twice as likely to develop asthma compared to those with the lowest levels. Higher levels of FeNO were linked with development of asthma most often in children whose parents had no history of the disease.
Nitric oxide is a gas that is produced by the cells that line the inner wall of the lungs' airways, and may be a marker of the inflammatory process that occurs in the lungs prior to asthma onset.
"We believe this is the first study to demonstrate the predictive value of FeNO for identifying children who are at risk for developing asthma," Tracy Bastain, a doctoral student in the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine and the lead author of the study said.
"Our results were strongest in children whose parents had never had asthma, suggesting that FeNO might help to identify additional susceptible children," she added.
The study was published ahead of print in the European Respiratory Journal.