World Asthma Day 2015 was held on May 5th, and in an effort to renew its commitment to improving knowledge on asthma as well as helping develop more effective treatments and preventing methods for the disease, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released a statement celebrating the day and its continued advocacy efforts. The NIH supports a series of research projects and scientists that are expected to make a major difference in the fight against asthma.
In its statement, the NIH reaffirmed the importance of focusing on asthma for the institution, noting that their supported investigators are currently making substantial progress in understudying the cause of asthma and factors that may lead to its development or worsening, such as the influence of exposure to microbes or allergenic triggers. As a result, the NIH is contributing to the development of novel methods to address these factors.
There are currently about 300 million people in the world who suffer from asthma, a chronic condition that causes inflammation and narrowing of the lung airways, as well as wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and coughing. Asthma may not only provoke disability and hospitalization, but also early death. In addition, the management of the disease is a costly task for both families and the government.
Currently, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) are all focused on addressing the unmet needs of the disease. Each of these NIH institutes uniquely support research on asthma, as well as asthma-related projects in order to decrease the burden of the disease worldwide and improve patients’ quality of life.
The NIAID supports basic, preclinical and clinical research focused on improving understanding, prevention and treatment of immunologic and infections diseases. The institute is focused on investigating the impact of microbial exposure and other allergens in asthma, including scientific projects that are centered on identifying a cellular receptor for rhinovirus C, and other novel target therapies.
NHLBI reports that they have made major accomplishments in addressing the disease, such as the assessment of the influence of microbiomes on asthma and the environment on asthma patients. AsthmaNet, a network supported by the institute, is currently responsible for a multi center trial that will compare the microbiome in the lungs and gut in order to increase understanding of microorganisms that may improve asthma and allergy treatment.
The Childhood Origins of Asthma (COAST) program, which is also funded by the institute, works to identify high risk children based on genetic and environmental factors. The study has already successfully demonstrated the effectiveness of rhinovirus infection as the strongest predictor of wheezing at three years old and development of asthma by six.
Studies supported by NIEHS revealed the importance of parental smoking and other environmental exposure to the development and severity of asthma, especially pediatric. Smoking during pregnancy has been shown to be particularly significant, while researchers also studied the importance of indoor and outdoor exposure, in addition to genetic factors and cost effective interventions.
In addition, the NIEHS Clinical Research Unit also initiated patient recruitment at the beginning of the year for a Natural History of Asthma with Longitudinal Environmental Sampling study (NHALES), which is expected to improve knowledge on the environment and its impact on asthma symptoms. During the five-year study, the researchers will be particularly focused on the bacteria found in and on humans and in homes.