Genetic ancestry and its association with asthma exacerbations among African American subjects with asthma

Rumpel, J. A.; Ahmedani, B. K.; Peterson, E. L.; Wells, K. E.; Yang, M.; Levin, A. M.; Yang, J. J.; Kumar, R.; Burchard, E. G.; Williams, L. K.

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2012 Oct 17; 130(6):1302-6


BACKGROUND: There are large and persisting disparities in severe asthma exacerbations by race-ethnicity, and African American subjects are among those at greatest risk. It is unclear whether this increased risk solely represents differences in environmental exposures and health care or whether there is a predisposing genetic component. OBJECTIVE: We sought to assess the relationship between genetic ancestry and severe exacerbations among African American subjects with asthma. METHODS: Participants were part of the Study of Asthma Phenotypes and Pharmacogenomic Interactions by Race-ethnicity (SAPPHIRE). These subjects were 12 to 56 years of age, received care from a single large health system, and had a physician's diagnosis of asthma. Genetic ancestry was estimated by using a set of validated ancestry informative markers. Severe exacerbations (ie, asthma-related emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and burst oral steroid use) were prospectively identified from health care claims. RESULTS: We assessed genetic ancestry in 392 African American subjects with asthma. The average proportion of African ancestry was 76.1%. A significant interaction was identified between ancestry and sex on severe exacerbations, such that the risk was significantly higher with increasing African ancestry among male but not female subjects. The association among male subjects persisted after adjusting for potential confounders (relative rate, 4.30 for every 20% increase in African ancestry; P = .029). CONCLUSIONS: African ancestry was significantly and positively associated with severe exacerbations among male African American subjects. These findings suggest that a portion of the risk of asthma exacerbations in this high-risk group is attributable to a genetic risk factor that partitions with ancestry.

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