Genome-wide association studies show youth with the childhood-onset asthma phenotype are not only at increased genetic risk for developing the disease as children, but they are also more likely to be diagnosed with asthma in adulthood, according to findings reported by Duke University researchers. The authors believe that genetic risk assessments might be able to predict which childhood-onset asthma cases remit and which become life-course-persistent.

Investigators reviewed data from the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, calculating a genetic risk score for each of 880 individuals in the Dunedin cohort by summing the number of risk variants each of them carried.

Researchers determined that those scores were related to the development and course of asthma from early childhood through midlife. Among those that developed asthma in childhood, those with higher genetic risk scores were also more likely to suffer with persistent asthma into adulthood.

Those at higher genetic risk were also more likely to have allergic reactions associated with severe and persistent asthma and to develop problems with lung function. They also experienced a lower quality of life, missing work and school more often and being admitted to the hospital because of asthma more frequently.

“It will be important to explore how these genetic risks play out in environments that differ in terms of air pollution or other important, modifiable factors,” said Daniel Belsky, a postdoctoral fellow at the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy and the Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development. He noted that there is still a long way to go before genetic risk scores can be used in routine medical practice.