Potential new treatment approach for severe asthma

September 14, 2005

Researchers have uncovered a potentially new treatment approach for severe asthma, by blocking a powerful immune system chemical, present in large amounts in patients with the severe form of the disease, a small study in Thorax reveals.

Around one in 10 asthmatics has the severe form of the disease, which frequently requires progressively higher doses of steroids in a bid to control symptoms.

Severe asthma is also associated with a much higher risk of illness and death than milder forms and accounts for almost a third of health service costs for asthma

The research team investigated tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF alpha), which is found in a range of chronic inflammatory conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, and psoriasis.

Included in the study were 26 healthy people, 67 mild asthmatics, and 51 severe asthmatics. Bronchial fluid and lung tissue samples were taken from the participants to discover their levels of TNF alpha.

Levels were significantly higher in those with severe disease and concentrated in one particular type of immune cell (mast cells) which are recognised components of the inflammatory reaction in asthma.

TNF alpha levels were low and similar in those with no asthma or who only had mild symptoms.

This suggests that the high levels of TNF alpha in severe disease are characteristic of more chronic disease that is resistant to steroid treatment, rather than a feature of the disease itself, say the authors.

Seventeen people with severe asthma who still had symptoms, despite being treated with a range of drugs, were also given 25 mg of a drug that blocks TNF alpha production (etanercept) twice weekly, injected below the skin for 12 weeks. Fifteen completed the course.

At the end of the study period, these patients experienced a significant improvement in symptoms and lung function. Two patients were able to discontinue one of their drugs.

The treatment also curbed the inflammatory reaction in the lungs, known as bronchial hyperresponsiveness. And there were few side effects.

The authors caution that further research will be required before this approach can be recommended, but they say that it offers a potentially new avenue of treatment for severe asthma.
-end-


BMJ Specialty Journals

Related Asthma Articles from Brightsurf:

Breastfeeding and risks of allergies and asthma
In an Acta Paediatrica study, exclusive breastfeeding for the first 3 months was linked with a lower risk of respiratory allergies and asthma when children reached 6 years of age.

Researchers make asthma breakthrough
Researchers from Trinity College Dublin have made a breakthrough that may eventually lead to improved therapeutic options for people living with asthma.

Physics vs. asthma
A research team from the MIPT Center for Molecular Mechanisms of Aging and Age-Related Diseases has collaborated with colleagues from the U.S., Canada, France, and Germany to determine the spatial structure of the CysLT1 receptor.

New knowledge on the development of asthma
Researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have studied which genes are expressed in overactive immune cells in mice with asthma-like inflammation of the airways.

Eating fish may help prevent asthma
A scientist from James Cook University in Australia says an innovative study has revealed new evidence that eating fish can help prevent asthma.

Academic performance of urban children with asthma worse than peers without asthma
A new study published in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology shows urban children with poorly controlled asthma, particularly those who are ethnic minorities, also suffer academically.

Asthma Controller Step Down Yardstick -- treatment guidance for when asthma improves
The focus for asthma treatment is often stepping up treatment, but clinicians need to know how to step down therapy when symptoms improve.

Asthma management tools improve asthma control and reduce hospital visits
A set of comprehensive asthma management tools helps decrease asthma-related visits to the emergency department, urgent care or hospital and improves patients' asthma control.

Asthma linked to infertility but not among women taking regular asthma preventers
Women with asthma who only use short-acting asthma relievers take longer to become pregnant than other women, according to research published in the European Respiratory Journal.

What are the best ways to diagnose and manage asthma?
A team of experts from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston examined the current information available from many different sources on diagnosing and managing mild to moderate asthma in adults and summarized them.

Read More: Asthma News and Asthma Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.