Elevated urinary leukotriene E4 levels may be an important biomarker for identifying aspirin intolerance in asthma patients.

The analysis of 10 studies in which the biomarker was analyzed in patients with asthma found UTLE4 to be an accurate marker for aspirin-intolerant asthma when measured using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, mass spectrometry, or radioimmunoassay.

Findings from the analysis, conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School, Boston, and the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn, and Scottsdale, Ariz, were presented here at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

Allergy specialist Maria C. Castells, MD, of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, who was not involved with the research, told MedPage Today that investigators have been searching for a simple blood or urine test to identify sensitivity to aspirin and other COX-1 NSAIDS in asthma patients for quite a while.

“The way we made the diagnosis at the moment is to challenge patients with aspirin, which is somewhat risky,” she said. “Pulmonary function among patients with asthma may not be that great already, and when we give them aspirin, it can drop even further.”

Castells said sensitivity to aspirin and other NSAIDS is common, occurring in between 7% to 10% of patients with asthma and an even higher percentage of those with severe asthma. Exposure to aspirin and other NSAIDS can trigger asthma symptoms, including difficulty breathing, chest tightness, and wheeze.

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