Gene-environment interactions are likely to explain some of the heterogeneity in childhood asthma. Here, we describe the methodology and experiences in establishing a database for childhood asthma designed to study gene-environment interactions (PAGES - Paediatric Asthma Gene Environment Study).
Children with asthma and under the care of a respiratory paediatrician are being recruited from 15 hospitals between 2008 and 2011. An asthma questionnaire is completed and returned by post. At a routine clinic visit saliva is collected for DNA extraction. Detailed phenotyping in a proportion of children includes spirometry, bronchodilator response (BDR), skin prick reactivity, exhaled nitric oxide and salivary cotinine. Dietary and quality of life questionnaires are completed. Data are entered onto a purpose-built database.
To date 1045 children have been invited to participate and data collected in 501 (48%). The mean age (SD) of participants is 8.6 (3.9) years, 57% male. DNA has been collected in 436 children. Spirometry has been obtained in 172 children, mean % predicted (SD) FEV1 97% (15) and median (IQR) BDR is 5% (2, 9). There were differences in age, socioeconomic status, severity and %FEV1 between the different centres (p=0.024). Reasons for non-participation included parents not having time to take part, children not attending clinics and, in a small proportion, refusal to take part.
It is feasible to establish a national database to study gene-environment interactions within an asthmatic paediatric population; there are barriers to participation and some different characteristics in individuals recruited from different centres. Recruitment to our study continues and is anticipated to extend current understanding of asthma heterogeneity.