HEALTH

There Is New Hope For 1 in 10 Australians Who Live With Asthma

A new trial drug targets the protein that creates inflammation of the lungs.

22/06/2016 5:05 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:54 PM AEST
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Tom Merton
New research could help at reversing or slowing the development of asthma.

In Australia 1 in 10 people suffer the symptoms of asthma. That's close to 2.5 million people who have difficulty breathing on a daily basis. And there is no cure.

But a new drug trial could work at changing this in the future. Research from the University of Queensland published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology that targets the protein IL-33 which causes inflammation of the lungs could have the potential to reverse or slow the development of the disease.

According to Simon Phipps, Associate Professor at the University of Queensland, the research has also found for the first time that the protein IL-33 also works at limiting the ability for the bodies of asthmatics to resist viral respiratory infections.

"The protein effectively works in two ways. The first way is that it promotes type two inflammation which is bad, the second is that it prevents the asthmatic from clearing a virus infection, which is also bad," Phipps told The Huffington Post Australia.

"It's working in two different ways to increase its ability to bring on an asthma attack."

Sponsored by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, the study is currently testing antibodies against protein compounds in mice with the hopes of progressing to the IL-33 protein in humans in the next year to work towards beating multiple types of asthma.

"This treatment has the potential to treat multiple subtypes of the disease, not just the classic type of asthma but also many others for which steroids are less effective," Phipps said.

"Because this IL-33 has the ability to block two of these types of inflammation, it potentially has the ability to be used in multiple different types of asthma. Potentially in the future young children will be treated with these candidate drugs."

According to Kristine Whorlow, the CEO of National Asthma Council Australia, the focus of Phipps' research and the trial is what makes any potential new treatment interesting.

"We can prevent you getting symptoms [of asthma] and we can control them once you've got them but this trial is looking at reversing or slowing down the development of asthma so that makes it very interesting," Whorlow told The Huffington Post Australia.

"If it proves to be successful, it would be very useful. This is the sort of thing that anyone working in asthma treatment hopes for anyone suffering asthma to have a better life."

While there has been considerable progress in the treatment of asthma, the important thing for sufferers is to still take precautionary steps and listen to their doctors, according to Whorlow.

"In the last few decades we have brought down deaths from 1000 to 400 in each year. In that period we have managed to bring down to almost nothing the number of deaths in children and young people," she said.

"For the 10 percent of our population who have asthma, the important thing for them is to see their doctors regularly, take their medications as prescribed and also follow the written asthma action plan developed with their doctor."

According to Phipps, the trial still has a way to go before being tested on humans, but has the potential for the development of new drugs to treat respiratory diseases.

"There's a number of clinical studies that show that the expression of the protein is higher in asthmatics and it somehow dysregulates this protein," he said.

"It's also been shown that it's elevated in other respiratory diseases as well, so potentially a drug in the future could be used in other cases."

And that could be reason to breathe a little easier.

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