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Outcomes of childhood asthma to the age of 50 years.

BACKGROUND: In 1964, The Melbourne Asthma Study was established to describe the spectrum and natural history of childhood asthma.

OBJECTIVE: To describe the clinical and lung function outcome of childhood asthma to the age of 50 years.

METHOD: Subjects were invited to complete an interviewer-administered questionnaire, skin prick testing, and measurement of lung function from the age of 7 years to the age of 50 years at 7-year intervals.

RESULTS: Of 458 survivors (from the original 484 subjects at recruitment), 346 subjects (76%) participated, of whom, 197 completed lung function measurement. Asthma remission at the age of 50 years was 64% in those with wheezy bronchitis, 47% for those with persistent asthma, and 15% for those with severe asthma in childhood. Multivariable analysis identified severe asthma in childhood (odds ratio [OR] 11.9 [95% CI, 3.4-41.8]), female sex (OR 2.0 [95% CI, 1.1-3.6]), and childhood hay fever (OR 2.0 [95% CI, 1.0-4.0]) as risk factors for "current asthma" at age 50 years. There was no evidence of a difference in the rate of decline in FEV1 (mL/y, 95% CI) between the severe asthma group (15 mL/y [95% CI, 9-22 mL/y]) and all the other recruitment groups: control (16 mL/y [95% CI, 12-20 mL/y]), mild wheezy bronchitis (14 mL/y [95% CI, 8-19 mL/y]), wheezy bronchitis (16 mL/y [95% CI, 11-20 mL/y]), and persistent asthma (19 mL/y [95% CI, 13-24 mL/y]).

CONCLUSION: The clinical and lung function outcome in adult life is strongly determined by asthma severity in childhood. The reduced lung function seen in adults is established in childhood and does not appear to decline more rapidly in adult years despite continuing symptoms.

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