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New £340,000 investment into asthma and allergy research at University of Leicester

A charity operating Britain's longest-running pollen database is investing over 340,000 into vital asthma and allergy research at the University of Leicester.

The Midlands Asthma and Allergy Research Association (MAARA), a local charity established in 1968 to undertake and fund research into the causes of asthma and allergy, is funding the study in the University's Department of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation.

Steve Watson, Chairman of MAARA, said: "We recognise the importance of research in this area and have been impressed with the results that Dr Pashley and her team have delivered to date. I believe that the techniques they have developed are ground breaking and the results of the longer term research could make a real difference to the lives of Asthma sufferers."

The funding will directly benefit asthma and hayfever sufferers in the East Midlands, according to Dr Catherine Pashley who runs the aerobiology and clinical mycology group at the University. She said: "I am absolutely delighted to be given this amazing opportunity. This funding means we will be able to continue our research which we hope will enable us to better understand what fungi people are breathing in, and which of these fungi are causing clinical complications. We hope to also begin new strands of research that will help us to better understand the mechanisms behind how the fungi are causing problems."

In 2005, MAARA provided a five year start-up grant to the University of Leicester, under the leadership of Professor Andy Wardlaw, to establish the new Aerobiology and clinical mycology group.

MAARA also fund the University of Leicester aerobiology and clinical mycology group as the only site in the East Midlands recording airborne pollen levels, a summary of which is made freely available on the MAARA website in addition to being used by the Met. office in conjunction with other sites throughout the UK to produce pollen forecasts for hayfever sufferers.

The group is also one of only two sites in the UK routinely recording airborne fungal spore levels. With access to the MAARA aerobiology database which goes back to 1970, the group has the longest running pollen and fungal spore database in the UK. The funding also helped initiate a programme of research into the role of fungal allergy in asthma, which has resulted in six research articles published to date in peer reviewed journals, including one in a top respiratory journal.

Fungal allergy affects a significant proportion of hayfever and asthma sufferers, but our understanding of which fungi are involved and how they cause problems is still mostly unknown. With the support of MAARA researchers at the University of Leicester are actively learning more about the fungi in the air we breathe indoors and out. In addition they are taking a closer look at which fungi are actively growing in the lungs of people with asthma, and are currently involved in a clinical trial looking at the effectiveness of an antifungal treatment.

Dr Pashley added: "A better understanding will hopefully allow us to advise people with allergies about living conditions and how to manage their allergies. In the long term there is the hope of treatments that will prevent the fungal allergies themselves rather than just treating the symptoms."


Contact: Dr. Catherine Pashley
University of Leicester

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New £340,000 investment into asthma and allergy research at University of Leicester
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