The burden of asthma (death, disability, and an increasing prevalence) makes it a major public health problem worldwide. In an effort to decrease this burden, investigators are studying many aspects of this disease. The role of race, ethnicity, infections, and pollutants as triggers, as well as the risk factors are now being defined. Research into methods to decrease acute exacerbations and improve emergency and in-hospital management, using standardized protocols and incentives for follow-up care, has yielded valuable information but has met with limited success. Adherence to the national guidelines has been poor and to some extent can be attributed to the lack of a practical method of measuring the degree of lung inflammation and cumbersome treatment protocols. Exhaled nitric oxide is a noninvasive marker of inflammation and may provide a rational method to titrate corticosteroid and leukotriene receptor antagonist therapy. The best route and dosing regimen for corticosteroid administration (oral vs intramuscular vs nebulized) are the subject of several studies, with no clear-cut winner. The burden of asthma in developing countries with limited financial resources has also triggered a search for simpler, cheaper, and practical methods for β-agonist delivery using indigenous spacers. Recent research in asthma has unveiled our incomplete knowledge of the disease but has also provided a sense of where efforts should be expended. Research into the genetics and pharmacogenetics of asthma and into the societal factors limiting the delivery of optimal care is likely to yield useful and practical information.
University of Florida Health Sciences Center/Jacksonville, and Wolfson Children's Hospital, Jacksonville, Florida, USA.
Correspondence to Niranjan Kissoon, MD, University of Florida HSC/Jacksonville, 820 Prudential Drive, Suite 203, Howard Building, Jacksonville, FL 32207-8210, USA; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org