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Personalised Asthma Treatment

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Findings from an Action funded study have demonstrated how personalised treatment can improve the quality of life for children and young people with asthma.

Around 1.1 million children in the UK have asthma, a lifelong condition that causes coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing. In the UK, asthma affects one in 11 children and every 18 minutes a child is admitted to hospital because of their asthma. When asthma is managed well, children can lead a full and active life.

Image of girl with nebulizer

Professor Somnath Mukhopadhyay, of Brighton’s Royal Alexandra Children's Hospital and Sussex Medical School, has uncovered evidence that a commonly used asthma medicine, called salmeterol, may offer little benefit to some of the children who are taking it. “We have a number of medicines that are generally effective in treating children with asthma, but they don’t work equally well for all children. We think that genetic differences could have an effect on whether these medicines work,” said Professor Mukhopadhyay.

In a trial funded by Action involving over 240 children and young people, the first of its kind, Professor Mukhopadhyay and his team used an inexpensive saliva test to determine differences in children’s genetic make-up. They then prescribed either salmeterol or another asthma drug montelukast, according to the children’s genetic make-up (an approach known as personalised treatment), and monitored their quality of life using questionnaires – asking them about their symptoms and whether their normal activities were limited.

The findings of the study showed that children who received personalised treatment had greater improvements to their quality of life compared to those on standard treatment.

Professor Mukhopadhyay said: “These results are very promising because they show, for the first time, that it could be beneficial to test for certain genetic differences in children with asthma and select medication according to those differences.” This approach of personalised care for both children and adults with asthma is an important step forward for respiratory research.

The evidence provided through this research has been used to create a shift in awareness of alternative treatment options, which is now improving clinical practice, informing General Practitioner training in the UK, and is formalised within international treatment guidelines in Australia. Life-changing care is now being provided for the patients and families undergoing alternative treatment