Asthma Treatment Research

Asthma treatment is the focus of many research studies, in part because the disease is so common. Over 22 million Americans live with asthma, which causes chronically inflamed and swollen airways. In people with asthma, the lung airways spasm when exposed to asthma triggers, which can include allergens, strong fragrances, tobacco smoke, air pollution and even cold temperatures.

Asthma symptoms vary widely in intensity. Common symptoms include wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing and tightness in the chest. At their most severe, asthma attacks can cut of breathing altogether, with potentially fatal results.

Asthma Treatment

Asthma treatment includes learning to identify and avoid asthma triggers, maintaining lung function and relieving symptoms. Asthma medication may include inhaled corticosteroids for long-term symptom control in addition to emergency inhalers for quick acting relief during an asthma attack.

Long term use of corticosteroids is not without the risk of side effects, and research on asthma treatment hopes to uncover new and more effective treatments as understanding of the lung disease grows.

Asthma Research Study Results

Recent research on asthma paves the way for new and more effective asthma treatments. From Canada, researchers at McMaster University report that the antibody mepolizumab may help control severe asthma symptoms in a particular sub-set of asthmatics.

Eosinophils are a type of inflammatory cell. Some people with severe asthma have high eospinophil levels in their lungs. Asthmatics in this group are not common, but generally have serious symptoms requiring regular hospitalization and injected medication, including the steroid prednisone.

Mepolizumab is an antibody that blocks eosinophil production. In a double blind study patients receiving mepolizumab were able to reduce their prednisone use without suffering an increase in symptom severity. Study volunteers in the control group experienced worsening symptoms on placebos when prednisone was reduced.

Asthma Treatment and Fungal Infections

An asthma research study published by the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom suggests that people with severe asthma can benefit from common antifungal therapies.

The Manchester study compared two groups of asthmatics with severe symptoms. One group was treated with the antifungal drug itraconazole for eight months, while the second group received placebos. All volunteers had tested positive for fungal allergies in the past.

After eight months, 60 percent of the group taking the antifungal medication reported significantly improved asthma symptoms. While not appropriate for all people with asthma, the Manchester research suggests up to 150,000 people with severe asthma in the U.K. could benefit from antifungal therapies.

Hay Fever and Asthma Research

The rate of hay fever in industrialized western countries may be as high as a quarter of the total population. Asthma studies suggest anywhere from 10 to 50 percent of children with untreated hay fever develop asthma later in life.

One possible defense against hay fever-induced asthma is immunotherapy, a process of slowly exposing the immune system to allergens until the system no longer overreacts to the allergen’s presence.

An asthma research study at the Ruhr-Universitaet in Bochum, Germany, tested the effectiveness of grass pollen immunotherapy in a group of children aged five to 15. For six months, half the children where treated with immunotherapy grass pollen tablets, which are placed under the tongue to dissolve. The second group received placebo in place of the grass pollen.

By the end of the study, the group who underwent grass pollen immunotherapy reported 24 percent less hay fever symptoms, required 34 percent less medication and had a 64 percent decrease in asthma symptoms.

The Future of Asthma Treatment

The three asthma research studies mentioned above show how complex asthma treatment can be. Multiple asthma triggers exist, and the future of asthma treatment may well call for highly individualized treatments based on those triggers. The result should be more effective, targeted treatments rather than treating asthma as a uniform disease with limited treatment options.

Resources

Gudbjartson, D. et al. (2009). The largest scale study so far on asthma genetics sheds light on disease mechanisms. Retrieved March 12, 2009, from the Medical News Today Web site: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/138661.php.

Haworth, A. (2009). Fungal pill could provide asthma relief for 150,000 UK sufferers. Retrieved March 12, 2009, from the Medical News Today Web site: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/134258.php.

McMaster University. (2009). Patients with severe asthma benefit from antibody injection. Retrieved March 12, 2009, from the Medical News Today Web site: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/141082.php.

Ruhr-Universitaet-Bochum. (2009). Immunotherapy alleviates hay fever and asthma in children. Retrieved March 12, 2009, from the Medical News Today Web site: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/136251.php.