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P N G Med J. 1992 Sep;35(3):186-90.

Precipitation of asthma attacks in Melanesian adults by sodium metabisulphite.

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St Mary's Hospital, London, UK.


Seven Melanesian asthmatic patients were challenged with substances that have been shown to precipitate asthma attacks in asthma patients in developed countries. Patients were challenged in a double-blind fashion using placebo and active substances. The active substances were tartrazine, sodium metabisulphite, aspirin and betel nut. All 7 patients were challenged with tartrazine and sodium metabisulphite; 5 were challenged with aspirin also, but only 2 were challenged with betel nut. Asthma attacks were precipitated by sodium metabisulphite in 3 patients. No other substances precipitated asthma. As sodium metabisulphite is a common food additive, these results suggest that processed foods introduced into developing countries may have an important role in precipitating asthma attacks in susceptible persons.

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