Background: The burden of bronchiectasis is disproportionately high in Aboriginal adults, with early mortality. Bronchiectasis precursors, that is, protracted bacterial bronchitis (PBB) and chronic suppurative lung disease (CSLD), often commence in early childhood. We previously reported a 10% prevalence of PBB in Aboriginal children aged 0 to 7 years, however there are no data on prevalence of chronic lung diseases in older children. Our study aimed to determine the prevalence of PBB, CSLD, bronchiectasis, and asthma in Aboriginal children living in four communities.
Methods: A whole-population cross-sectional community co-designed study of Aboriginal children aged <18-years in four remote communities in Western Australia across two-time points, a month apart. Children were assessed by pediatric respiratory clinicians with spirometry undertaken (when possible) between March–September 2021. Children with respiratory symptoms were followed up via medical record audit from either the local medical clinic or via a respiratory specialist clinic through to March 2022 to establish a final diagnosis.
Findings: We recruited 392 (91.6%) of those in the selected communities; median age = 8.4 years (interquartile range [IQR] 5.1–11.5). Seventy children (17.9%) had a chronic respiratory pathology or abnormal spirometry results. PBB was confirmed in 30 (7.7%), CSLD = 13 (3.3%), bronchiectasis = 5 (1.3%) and asthma = 17 (4.3%). The prevalence of chronic wet cough significantly increased with increasing age.
Interpretation: The prevalence of PBB, CSLD and bronchiectasis is high in Aboriginal children and chronic wet cough increases with age. This study highlights the high disease burden in Aboriginal children and the urgent need for strategies to address these conditions.