Minn. — Nearly 1 million incidences of herpes zoster, which
is also known as shingles, occur every year in the U.S., with
an estimated one-third of all adults affected by age 80.
Despite its prevalence, particularly between ages 50 and 59,
it is still unclear why some individuals will develop shingles
and others will not. In a population-based study published in
the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Mayo Clinic
researchers build on their previous research from 2013, which
linked asthma in childhood with an increased risk of shingles.
represents one of the five most burdensome chronic diseases in
the U.S., affecting up to 17 percent of the population,"
says lead author Young Juhn, M.D., who is a general academic
pediatrician and asthma epidemiologist at the Mayo Clinic
Children’s Research Center. "The effect of asthma on
the risk of infection or immune dysfunction might very well go
beyond the airways."
records for potential patients with shingles were reviewed in
Olmsted County, Minnesota, where 371 cases with shingles —
age 67 on average — were identified during the study period
and compared against 742 control subjects. Of the 371 shingles
cases, 23 percent (87 individuals) had asthma, compared with
15 percent (114 of 742) from the control group. The authors
found that adults with asthma were at about a 70 percent
greater risk of developing shingles, compared to those without
researchers also noted that, with asthma and other atopic
conditions accounted for, both asthma and atopic dermatitis
were found to be independently associated with a higher risk
of shingles. Shingles occurred at a rate of 12 percent in
patients with atopic dermatitis (45 of 371 shingles cases)
versus 8 percent (58 of 742) of the control subjects.
underlying mechanisms are not clear; however, impairment in
innate immune functions in the skin and airways is
well-documented in patients with asthma or atopic dermatitis.
Researchers believe that, because asthma helps suppress
adaptive immunity, it may increase the risk of varicella
zoster virus reactivation.
asthma is an unrecognized risk factor for zoster in adults,
consideration should be given to immunizing adults aged 50
years and older with asthma or atopic dermatitis as a target
group for zoster vaccination," Juhn concludes.
researchers note that neither inhaled corticosteroids nor
vaccinations were associated with a higher risk of shingles.
Rather, zoster vaccination was associated with a lower risk of