Asthma Research Round-Up: July 2019
Today, nearly 25 million people in the United States are living with asthma. For 5 to 10% of those living with asthma, symptoms such as wheezing and shortness of breath aren't well managed by their current treatments.
We've gathered some of the latest research on how doctors can better treat asthma – and how it can be prevented in the first place.
Different types of asthma have their own treatment needs
Though asthma is a common chronic disease, not everyone living with asthma has the same symptoms or responds to the same treatment. Researchers are beginning to understand why patients respond differently by taking a close look at mucus in the lungs.
They theorized that patients with low levels of inflammatory cells called eosinophils in lung mucus would respond less well to the current standard treatment for asthma: inhaled steroid medications.
A recent study involving patients with mild, persistent asthma found that a surprising 73% of those participants had low eosinophil levels. The same patients with those low levels were also least likely to respond to inhaled steroids.
The findings suggest that patients with different types of asthma may have their own treatment needs.
Asthma protection outside the farm
You may have heard that children who grow up on farms are less likely to develop asthma. Of course, for the millions of people living with asthma who don't live on farms, that research may sound less than exciting.
New research, however, is investigating how "farm-like" indoor microbes can have a similar anti-asthma effect.
Prior research has found that children who grow up on farms among animals have half the risk of developing asthma, compared with their urban counterparts. Researchers credit the diverse exposure to the variety of tiny organisms that live around farm animals.
Chances are, most people don't want to raise a few pigs in a city apartment. But researchers discovered that any microbes from the outdoors can help protect against asthma. They found that homes with less fastidious cleaning habits, such as wearing shoes inside, had more helpful outdoor microbes. Larger families also had more microbes, with more people to carry microorganisms in from outside.
More research is needed to learn more about the specific "cocktail" of bacteria that can help a growing immune system.
Air pollution in urban areas also plays a large role in the development of asthma. Ozone, wildfires, and other pollutants can all cause asthma and worsen symptoms. Asthma research advocacy organizations compile lists of the worst-offending "asthma capitals" and advocate for cleaner air policies.
New research can't move forward without volunteers. Start your search for an asthma clinical trial near you.