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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Gastroesophageal reflux and asthma.

The medical literature has been deluged with articles on the relation between gastroesophageal reflux ( GER) and asthma. In an effort to piece together the complex puzzle, investigators from all disciplines have gathered their patients with wheezing and heartburn and studied the epidemiology, the possible cause or effect mechanisms and the therapeutic response to GER treatment. Indeed, since humans first began to hunker down and work together to discuss interesting observations, the world has begun to breathe easier. Epidemiological evidence for a GER/asthma association suggests that about three-fourths of asthmatics, independent of the use of bronchodilators, have acid GER, increased frequency of reflux episodes, or heartburn; and 40% have reflux esophagitis. Physiological studies suggest that 2 separate mechanisms are involved in the GER/asthma relationship: (1) a vagally mediated pathway and (2) microaspiration. In any given patient, however, there is no acceptable diagnostic method available to confirm the presence or absence of GER-induced asthma. Clinical trials, using antireflux medical therapy and antireflux surgery have begun to provide some clues about GER-related pulmonary symptoms. The trials of medical therapy using acid suppressing drugs (e.g. histamine-2 receptor antagonists) have ranged from no benefit to modest improvement of only nocturnal asthma symptoms. Studies with proton-pump inhibitors are underway. In uncontrolled surgical studies, antireflux surgery has resulted in partial or complete remission of asthma symptoms in a large proportion of patients. Despite the uncontrolled nature of these studies, many patients have had dramatic subjective improvement in pulmonary symptoms. It appears for now that clinical trials are the only available means to assess whether medical or surgical treatment of GER in patients with both GER and asthma improves the symptoms of asthma and decreases the need for pulmonary medications. One conclusion is certain: We no longer can ignore the important co-existent nature of these 2 afflictions.[1]


  1. Gastroesophageal reflux and asthma. Sontag, S.J. Am. J. Med. (1997) [Pubmed]
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