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Key Milestone In Antifungal Treatment For Severe Asthma

University of Manchester researchers recently announced that they have reached a key milestone in their study of the antifungal treatment of asthma. It is hoped that the study, by clinical researchers based at Manchester's Wythenshawe Hospital, will reduce the need for steroid use as an asthma treatment and also cut down on serious asthma attacks requiring hospital intervention. The study may also help provide treatment information to those suffering from cystic fibrosis and chronic sinusitis.

Asthma In The United Kingdom
Severe asthma in adults affects 10 - 20% of the UK's 5 million asthmatics, and skin tests indicate that up to 70% of these asthma sufferers are allergic to one or more common fungi in the air.

Previous studies have shown the benefits of one antifungal drug [itraconazole or Sporonoxâ] for the asthma subgroup known as “allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis” or “ABPA”. The University of Manchester researchers are studying the more common association between fungal allergy and those with severe asthma who do not have ABPA. During research, volunteers are screened and, if testing shows allergy to one or more fungi, allocated the antifungal drug itraconazole capsules or matching dummy capsules for 8 months. So far 26 patients (25% of the total required ) have been enrolled.

Fungi Allergy Affects Asthma Sufferers
Allergy to fungi is relatively common, affecting asthmatics, those with cystic fibrosis and others with chronic sinusitis (usually with nasal polyps). Fungi commonly involved include airborne molds, such as Aspergillus, Cladosporium, Alternaria and Penicillium, with airborne fungal spores outnumbering pollen grains in outside air almost 1000-fold. Inside the home fungi are also very common, particularly in bedrooms and cellars, and compost is particularly rich in fungi.

The clinical study is funded by the charity The Moulton Trust as a grant to the University of Manchester. Its lead investigator Dr Robert Niven, of the North West Lung Centre, Wythenshawe Hospital, said: “We have few options for patients with severe asthma other than prescribing more steroids, and those we do have can have side effects worse than steroids themselves. Antifungal treatment for those sensitized to fungi may be a useful additional strategy to improve the breathing and overall health of these patients. Certainly our limited treatment experience with itraconazole suggests fewer admissions to hospital for asthma and reduced numbers of steroid courses.”

Four centers are currently enrolling patients: The North West Lung Centre, Wythenshawe Hospital, Hope Hospital ( Ronan O'Driscoll ); North Manchester General Hospital ( Dr J Miles ) and Preston Hospital ( Dr A Vyas ). The study is expected to conclude in 2006 when the results will be analyzed.

The importance of fungi to health was highlighted at a conference in London on June 15th 2005 hosted by the Fungal Research Trust, a UK Charity devoted to education and research into fungal disease.
Source: AlphaGalileo

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