Major European study reports identify certain key characteristics associated with severe asthma. The initial findings can significantly help with the development of new treatment regimes for patients. The recently published study is one of the largest to observe adult patients of severe asthma, taking into consideration their symptoms, quality of life, and airway and blood measurements.

Understanding Asthma

More than 30 million European children and adults suffer from asthma; approximately 4 percent of these (about 1.2 million individuals) develop severe asthma. Despite receiving regular high doses of treatment, patients experience daily symptoms and are mostly admitted to the hospital for emergency healthcare. This puts a huge burden on the latter as well.

The U-BIOPRED (Unbiased BIOmarkers in PREDiction of respiratory disease outcomes) project, funded by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), was convened in 2008 to help increase understanding of severe asthma and to develop new treatment strategies.

The study in question consisted of five groups of adults in 11 different countries – 101 healthy volunteers, 110 smokers, 311 non-smokers with severe asthma, 88 patients with milder asthma and ex-smokers with severe asthma. They were followed for more than a year. Samples of blood, sputum (mucus) and urine were collected for observation, and lung functions along with various anatomical tests were also conducted.

Urgent Need For New Treatments

According to the results published in the European Respiratory Journal, patients with severe asthma were more symptomatic and had more exacerbations as compared to those with mild to moderate asthma. Moreover, patients of severe asthma reported poorer quality of life and increased levels of depression and anxiety, along with a higher amount of nasal polyps (tiny growths in the nose), compromised lung function and acid indigestion.

New Treatments For Asthma Coming Soon

A major finding was that even though these patients took higher amounts of anti-inflammatory treatments, such as oral steroids and inhalers, they still exhibited increased amounts of inflammation in their airways.

“Our findings corroborate recent descriptions of asthma and will hopefully enable us to identify distinct asthma phenotypes, or subgroups”, stated lead author Dr Dominick Shaw, from the University of Nottingham in the UK. “Once we can break the condition down into distinct groups, patients can be promptly and correctly diagnosed and individually treated via targeting the exact mechanisms that drive their own disease. Once these new treatment strategies are identified, we can lower the burden of this chronic and devastating disease”.