A team of CINTESIS researchers created a tool to identify asthma, which uses a simple scoring system. The work where this tool is presented to the international medical community was recently published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice – one of the most important scientific journals in the field of allergy.
João Fonseca, leader of the research team of CINTESIS responsible for the study and specialist in Immunoallergology, recalls that “although it is a very common and a very studied disease, asthma still did not have any simple and reliable screening instrument, developed in a demanding way” .
The gap that this work now fills up, besides making it difficult to identify asthma cases, was detrimental to the robustness of the studies on this disease and will be, even, behind some disparities found among the prevalence of asthma reported by different studies.
“There was a lack of a valid classification model that would make it possible to simply distinguish persons for whom asthma is probable, those whose confirmation of the disease requires medical evaluation, and those who are very unlikely to have asthma,” explains the specialist.
Set to correct the situation, the research team developed and validated two scores for the identification of asthma in adults. “For this, we evaluated data from more than 700 adults with and without asthma, from all over the country. Patients were evaluated by a specialist in structured medical consultation and diagnostic tools,” explains the CINTESIS researcher Ana Sá Sousa, the first author of the study.
The two asthma identification questionnaires that have been developed and now made public have proved to be good tools for the screening of asthma in adults, also making it possible for the first time to use scientifically robust scores in asthma epidemiological studies
The questionnaires are short (6 to 8 questions) and easy to use and the result is the sum of the number of positive responses. The performance of this tool has excited the medical community, and “new studies are already being planned in other populations, including in South-East Asia,” adds João Fonseca.
It is importat to remember that asthma is a major public health problem worldwide, affecting people of all ages and presenting large costs to health systems and to patients and their families. In Portugal alone, it is estimated that the disease affects 700,000 persons and costs the state about 550 million euros per year – 929 euros per child and 708 euros per adult, values that double when we talk about patients with uncontrolled asthma.