While the symptoms of severe asthma may look similar, the disease is actually very different from person to person. As a result, there’s no single treatment that can be used to attack all severe asthma cases.
According to a new study published in Cell Reports, severe asthma is a complex disease that requires improved treatment mechanisms to treat. The study conducted by immune-biologists and pulmonologists from the University of Pittsburgh and Stanford University used molecular biology, bioinformatics and computational approaches to group asthma patients’ immune profiles.
From the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s statistics, 25 million people in America suffer from asthma. Although the current treatment methods like inhalers and other corticosteroid treatments are sufficient for most cases, there’s still an inadequacy in technology that can be used to tell if a patient might be resistant to this treatment later on.
For these patients who are resistant to corticosteroid treatment, there’s no standard form of treatment when they get severe asthma. Therefore, despite severe asthma accounting for under 10 percent of all asthma cases, it consumes half of all asthma healthcare cost.
According to Sally Wenzel, M.D., co-author of the study and chair of Pitt Public Health’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, although there have been great strides in the treatment of asthma, there are people whose quality of life has been greatly reduced by severe asthma. Senior author and professor of medicine & immunology at the University of Pittsburgh, Anuradha Ray, PhD., further observes that there are asthma patients with similar-looking asthma profiles but very different immune profiles.
Breakthroughs in the study
In the study, patients were grouped into two major categories comprising of asthma with similar biomarkers but very different immune profiles and associated biological pathways. One of these groups can then be recommended for therapy as being potentially resistant to corticosteroid treatment.
The researchers came up with an algorithm that relates immune cells to pathways that can be linked to disease pathogenesis. With this technology, the study hopes that more cases of severe asthma can be identified early.