How a simple cold can set off a deadly asthma attack: Scientists discover chemical can send the immune system into overdrive
- Asthmatics make more of an immune chemical when they have colds
- This triggers the release of other chemicals, which can cause attacks
- Discovery paves the way for drugs to better control asthma attacks
- Almost 5.5million Britons, and one in every 11 children, treated for asthma
- Lung condition kills around 1,200 people every year in the UK
The mystery of why a simple cold can trigger a life-threating asthma attack may have been solved by British scientists.
They’ve shown that asthmatics make more of chemical that sends the immune system into overdrive.
The exciting discovery, from Imperial College London and Kings College London, paves the way for drugs that will better control the distressing and potentially deadly attacks.
Scientists have found that, when suffering from a cold, asthmatics make more of a chemical which sends the immune system into overdrive and can trigger attacks
Dr Samantha Walker, of Asthma UK, which part-funded the research, said: ‘Asthma still remains a relative mystery and the millions of people with asthma need more studies like this to bring us one step closer to new treatments.’
Almost 5.5 million Britons are being treated for asthma – that is one in every 12 adults and one in every 11 children.
But while the condition is normally kept under control day to day using steroid inhalers, flare-ups are harder to treat and the lung condition kills some 1,200 people each year in the UK.
Asthmatics make much more an immune chemical called IL-25 than other people. IL25 then triggers the release of other damaging chemicals which are believed to be behind the symptoms of a severe asthma attack
Many potentially deadly attacks are triggered by nothing more than a common cold – and now scientists think they know why.
They’ve found that when they have a cold, asthmatics make much more an immune chemical called IL-25 than other people.
IL25 then triggers the release of other damaging chemicals which are believed to be behind the symptoms of a severe asthma attack.
The study’s joint lead author, Dr Nathan Bartlett, of Imperial College London, said: ‘Our research has shown for the first time that the cells that line the airways of asthmatics are more prone to producing a small molecule called IL-25, which then appears to trigger a chain of events that causes attacks.
‘By targeting this molecule at the top of the cascade, we could potentially discover a much-needed new treatment to control this.’
Co-lead author, Professor Sebastian Johnston, of the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London, said: ‘Existing medication containing inhaled steroids are highly effective at controlling regular asthma symptoms, but during an attack the symptoms worsen and can lead to the patient going to hospital.
‘This new study provides exciting results about potential ways to address this big unmet medical need.’