Importance Asthma is a multifactorial disease composed of endotypes with varying risk profiles and outcomes. African Americans experience a high burden of asthma and of psychosocial stress, including racial discrimination. It is unknown which endotypes of asthma are vulnerable to racial/ethnic discrimination.
Objective We examined the association between self-reported racial/ethnic discrimination and bronchodilator response (BDR) among African American youth with asthma ages 8 to 21 years (n = 576) and whether this association varies with tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) level.
Materials and methods Self-reported racial/ethnic discrimination was assessed by a modified Experiences of Discrimination questionnaire as none or any. Using spirometry, BDR was specified as the mean percentage change in forced expiratory volume in one second before and after albuterol administration. TNF-α was specified as high/low levels based on our study population mean. Linear regression was used to examine the association between self-reported racial/ ethnic discrimination and BDR adjusted for selected characteristics. An interaction term between TNF-α levels and self-reported racial/ethnic discrimination was tested in the final model.
Results Almost half of participants (48.8%) reported racial/ethnic discrimination. The mean percent BDR was higher among participants reporting racial/ethnic discrimination than among those who did not (10.8 versus 8.9, p = 0.006). After adjustment, participants reporting racial/ethnic discrimination had a 1.7 (95% CI: 0.36±3.03) higher BDR mean than those not reporting racial/ethnic discrimination. However, we found heterogeneity of this association according to TNF-α levels (p-interaction = 0.040): Among individuals with TNF-α high level only, we observed a 2.78 higher BDR mean among those reporting racial/ethnic discrimination compared with those not reporting racial/ethnic discrimination (95%CI: 0.79±4.77).
Conclusions We found BDR to be increased in participants reporting racial/ethnic discrimination and this association was limited to African American youth with TNF-α high asthma, an endotype thought to be resistant to traditional asthma medications. These results support screening for racial/ethnic discrimination in those with asthma as it may reclassify disease pathogenesis.