SUNDAY, July 31 (HealthDay News) -- A gene variant associated with asthma in black Americans has been pinpointed by a team of researchers working together in a new national collaboration called the EVE Consortium.

The PYHIN1 gene variant was not present in European Americans and may be the first asthma susceptibility gene variant to be identified in black Americans.

The researchers' analysis of data from nine independent research groups also confirmed findings published last year that linked four other gene variants with increased asthma risk across all ethnicities.

The new study, published online July 31 in the journal Nature Genetics, offers a promising first step in efforts to determine the genetic causes of asthma, according to the researchers.

"We now have a really good handle on at least five genes that anyone would be comfortable saying are asthma risk loci," senior author Carole Ober, co-chair of the EVE Consortium and a professor of human genetics and obstetrics/gynecology at the University of Chicago, said in a news release from the university's medical center. "I think it's an exciting time in asthma genetics."

Asthma rates in the United States have been rising in recent years, with the greatest increase among black Americans, according to Dr. Susan B. Shurin, acting director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

"Understanding these genetic links is an important first step towards our goal of relieving the increased burden of asthma in this population," she said in the news release.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about asthma.