Why is asthma mortality higher in Puerto Ricans?

Bradly Bundrant, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Asthma is a significant public health issue and the most common chronic disease in children. The disease burden of asthma is rising around the world and especially in certain populations. In the United States Puerto Rican Americans have the highest rates of mortality due to asthma, while Mexico Americans have the lowest asthma mortality in the U.S. The reasons for this have been the cause of much speculation in the past; however, no clear cause for these differences has been recognized. The present work reviews the literature bearing on this question to show that there are good reasons to believe that individuals with unusually responsive innate immune responses may be predisposed to the development of asthma. Also reviewed is the molecular basis for this connection. The evidence shows that the history and anthropology of the Puerto Rican people is quite different from that of any other surviving North American or Caribbean population, as it was a relatively isolated island population for 400 years with an environment that tended to eliminate individuals with weak innate immune systems. The Puerto Rican population successfully survived the Columbian exchange of microbes but may be poorly adapted to the modern pro-inflammatory diet coupled with exposure to cigarette smoke as well as cockroach and house dust mite feces.

Subject Area

Public health|Epidemiology|Immunology

Recommended Citation

Bundrant, Bradly, "Why is asthma mortality higher in Puerto Ricans?" (2009). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1467645.