Asthma may have a surprising relationship with the composition of the species of bacteria that inhabit bronchial airways, a finding that could suggest new treatment or even potential cures for the common inflammatory disease, according to a new UCSF-led study.
Using new detection methods, researchers learned that the diversity of microbes inside the respiratory tract is far vaster than previously suspected creating a complex and inter-connected microbial neighborhood that appears to be associated with asthma, and akin to what has also been found in inflammatory bowel disease, vaginitis, periodontitis, and possibly even obesity.
Contrary to popular belief, the scientists also learned that the airways are not necessarily entirely sterile environments, even in healthy people, while the airways of asthmatics are infected by a richer, more complex collection of bacteria. These findings could improve understanding of the biology of asthma, and potentially lead to new and much-needed therapies.
"People thought that asthma was caused by inhalation of allergens but this study shows that it may be more complicated than that asthma may involve colonization of the airways by multiple bacteria,'' said study co-author Homer Boushey, MD, a UCSF professor of medicine in the division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine.
The study is published online in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. http://www.jacionline.org/issues?issue_key=S0091-6749(10)X0018-5
Asthma is one of the most common diseases in the world, with approximately 300 million asthmatics globally, including 24 million in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The disease has been on the rise for the last 60 years.
"It has gone from 3 percent of the population to slightly more than 8 percent of the population in the U.S.,'' said Bo
|Contact: Elizabeth Fernandez|
University of California - San Francisco