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article imageFungi offer new clues for asthma treatment

By Tim Sandle     Feb 25, 2013 in Health
Cardiff - From a review of fungal particles found in the lungs of asthma sufferers, scientists think that they have the foundations for developing new treatments.
Asthma is a common chronic inflammatory disease of the airways characterized by variable and recurring symptoms and reversible airflow obstruction. There are multiple causes for the condition including allergens, air pollution, and other environmental chemicals. One of the causes is thought to be an allergic reaction to fungal spores, which are carried in the air and then enter the lungs.
Researchers have shown that large numbers of fungi are present in healthy human lungs (a finding which contradicts previous theories, where it was considered that ‘healthy lungs’ were relatively microbe free). What is different, however, between the lungs of non-asthma sufferers and asthma sufferers is that the types of fungi differ.
From an examination of the mucus or sputum of patients with and without asthma, the researchers found 136 different fungal species. Upon categorizing these, 90 fungal species were more common in asthma patients whereas 46 were more common in healthy individuals.
It is hoped that further analysis of these fungal differences will lead to the development of new, more targeted treatments for asthma. The link between fungi and asthma fits in with an earlier study which looked at how inflammatory diseases like asthma might be associated with the changing biodiversity of the environment.
The study was led by Dr Hugo van Woerden of Cardiff University's Institute of Primary Care and Public Health. The findings have been published in the journal BMC Infectious Diseases.
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