Health In Focus
  • The current tests for asthma include physical examination and measuring of lung capacity which may not be 100% accurate.
  • These tests can be cumbersome and distressing and lead to misdiagnosis of the condition and unwanted medication.
  • The metabolic profiling of saliva could be a one stop diagnosis for asthma.
  • Saliva test is painless and provides information on the progression and severity of the condition.

Current techniques to diagnose asthma include a physical examination of the eyes, nose, throat, ears, chest and lungs through x-ray. Breathing tests known as lung function test which measures a person's lung capacity are also performed for confirmation of diagnosis. Other methods of testing can be through analysis of blood, urine and sputum. These methods can often be inaccurate, cumbersome and distressing especially for children. They also do not provide information on the underlying mechanisms associated with the condition.

A simple saliva test could be the 'one stop' diagnosis for asthma, which is suitable for all ages. It is painless and can also provide information on the severity of the condition. The test was developed by researchers at the Loughnorough University in collaboration with Nottingham City Hospital.
Simple Saliva Test To Diagnose Asthma

Dr. Samantha Walker, Director of Research and Policy at Asthma UK, said: "There is no single, simple test to diagnose asthma because it is such a complex condition with many different causes which we are yet to fully understand. This research suggests a saliva test could potentially be a simple way to diagnose asthma in the future."

The research team, led by Professor Colin Creaser from Loughborough's Department of Chemistry and Dr Dominick Shaw from the Respiratory Research Unit at City Hospital collected saliva from 30 patients, with and without asthma.

The saliva samples were assessed for metabolic biomarkers by performing liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) analysis.

The new test diagnoses asthma by detecting the presence and the amount of the biomarkers. Sampling methods used in the study had the potential to pinpoint the severity and progression of the disease.

Asthma is a condition caused by narrowing of the bronchial tubes, the passageways that allow air to enter and leave the lungs. The airways become inflamed and secrete extra mucus. This makes breathing difficult and causes shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing.

There is no cure for asthma and it is a life-long condition that has to be managed with proper prevention strategies and treatment. One way to manage asthma is by avoiding triggers as much as possible.

Asthma Statistics

  • Around 100 to 150 million people worldwide suffer from asthma with the number steadily rising. According the Center for Disease Control, one in 14 people has asthma. Asthma kills around 180,000 people annually.
  • In America, the number of asthmatics has increased by 60% since 1980. Around 24 million Americans have asthma with children accounting for 8.6 % of the cases and adults at 7.4 %.
  • While 5.4 million people in the UK currently receive treatment for asthma out of which 1.1 million are children. 8% of the Swiss population and 4 million people among the Germans are asthmatics.
  • In Japan, 3 million people are diagnosed with asthma and in Australia, one in six children below 16 years of age are affected.
  • In India, 15-20 million people have asthma with a prevalence of 10 to 15% among 5-11-year-old children.
Professor Colin Creaser said "Unlike other sampling methods, such as expired breath analysis, saliva can be collected by passive drool from the very young to the very old without causing distress. We were therefore interested to know if techniques for metabolic profiling of saliva to identify physiological stress from exercise - developed by Loughborough - could be applied to asthma diagnosis. We were very excited to discover that they could." he added.

Before the effectiveness of the test can be validated and it can be offered in a larger clinical setting, successful long-term studies in much larger population are needed.

The findings were published in the journal Analytical Methods.

Common Triggers of Asthma

Asthma can be triggered by substances that cause allergy, called allergens. The common allergens include pollens, dust mites, rodents, cockroaches, animal fur etc.

When an allergen enters the body, it activates the immune system. The immune system responds by releasing the immunoglobulin E (IgE) which leads to inflammation of the airways, making breathing difficult. This can trigger asthma attack.
  • Irritants in the air like smoke from cigarette, chemicals, smoke from fumes etc can also trigger asthma.
  • Sometimes asthma can occur as a part of respiratory illness like cold, flu, sinus infection and pneumonia.
  • Psychological triggers like grief, shock, crying, laughing, anger and excitement can also cause asthma.
  • Sudden changes in weather and certain medicines are also associated with asthma.
  • Exercise induced bronchoconstriction also triggers asthma in people who are prone to it. Exercise demands increased supply of oxygen to the body. As a result the person inhales through the mouth causing the air to be cooler and dryer as compared to nasal inhalation. The cool air causes the constriction or narrowing of the bronchial tubes, making breathing difficult.

Management of Asthma

  • Early identification of the condition through proper physical examination by an asthma specialist or allergist.
  • Use of appropriate long-term or quick relief medications depending on the severity of the condition.
  • Avoid triggers which maybe environmental like cigarette smoke, pollens or dust, emotional triggers or certain medications that irritate and inflame the airways.
  • Improving the quality of life through healthy diet, maintaining healthy weight, exercise and immunizations.
References :
  1. Asthma Basics - (
  2. Asthma Information for Patients - (
  3. Bronchial Asthma - (
Source: Medindia

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