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Allergy Asthma Proc. 2009 Jan-Feb;30(1):55-63. doi: 10.2500/aap.2009.30.3197.

Relationship between atopic asthma and the population prevalence rates for asthma or atopy in children: atopic and nonatopic asthma in epidemiology.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, 2nd School of Medicine, University "La Sapienza," Rome, Italy.


Innumerable articles have tried to solve the "continuing enigma of atopic and nonatopic asthma" but notwithstanding the strenuous efforts to substantiate the few well-known clinico-epidemiologic differences between these two forms of asthma most studies have hitherto generated inconclusive statements. In a recent study based on the review of epidemiologic studies conducted worldwide in unselected populations of children, we documented that the prevalence of atopic asthma (AA) was high in the populations with a high prevalence of atopy. We systematically reviewed 36 articles that studied 48 populations of unselected children and reported prevalence rates for asthma and atopy in the total sample and in the subpopulations. No significant difference was found in the prevalence of asthma cases in the quartiles of childhood populations subdivided for the prevalence of atopy. In addition, atopy did not increase significantly in the subgroups of populations subdivided by asthma quartiles. In both subgroups, however, AA increased with increasing atopy or with increasing asthma (p < 0.001). Using a positive skin-prick test reaction to define cases of asthma as cases of AA is misleading because the prevalence of subjects so defined is heavily influenced by the environmentally generated changes in the prevalence of atopy or asthma. Asthma in a child should be labeled as a case of AA only if skin-prick tests yield a positive reaction and the clinical history documents asthma symptoms triggered by allergen exposure.

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