5 Aug 2016

Asthma - not a respiratory disease?

Professor Bruce Thompson, Head of Physiology Services at
The Alfred, is trialling a new approach for asthma.
Exciting research, based around finding a cure for asthma, has led to some new thinking about the disease, which affects one in 10 Australians.

The Alfred’s Head of Physiology Services Professor Bruce Thompson will trial a new approach by treating asthma not as a respiratory disease, but as a rash. Part of the Centre for Research Excellence on Asthma, a national effort involving investigators around the country, Prof Thompson said the approach is to think differently.

“We’ll be using a commonly used antibiotic that has an anti-inflammatory property. We’ve nebulised the drug so it can be inhaled. No one has done this before.


“About 40 per cent of people with severe asthma don’t have eosinophils in the sputum and don’t respond well to inhaled corticosteroids, which is the mainstay of treatment. “Sometimes we can be blanketed about treatment and call it steroid-resistant asthma. But it may be that the steroids are working; it’s just the wrong treatment,” said Prof Thompson. Along with a co-investigator in Sydney, Prof Thompson is working on targeting treatment to this specific type of asthma.

Prof Thompson believes that asthma is an umbrella term, where different mechanisms cause the same result. “We think the root of the problem is that when the airways becoming inflamed for whatever reason, they then become distended and stiff and the lungs don’t like it.

“The potential of this study is big and we’re cautiously optimistic.  Even if it helps 10 per cent of the population, it will be life changing treatment. With Australia still leading the world in the morbidity rate for asthma, it is clear other treatments are needed.” Up to 60 participants will be involved in the four year study at The Alfred.

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