Mould discovery in lungs paves way for helping hard to treat asthma

January 15, 2018, University of Manchester
Obstruction of the lumen of a bronchiole by mucoid exudate, goblet cell metaplasia, and epithelial basement membrane thickening in a person with asthma. Credit: Yale Rosen/Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 2.0

A team at The University of Manchester have found that in a minority of patients they studied, a standard treatment for asthma—oral steroids—was associated with increased levels of the treatable mould Aspergillus in the lung.

The findings could be of valuable help to asthmatics who endure severe and difficult to treat symptoms, by giving doctors the information they need to plan their care more effectively.

The team stress there is no danger to asthmatics from steroid therapy and that patients should continue taking their or tablets as prescribed.

About 40 percent of people with severe asthma have allergies to Aspergillus in their lungs.

The research showed that severe asthmatics with allergies were ten times more likely to carry higher levels of mould when on corticosteroid treatment.

Individuals in the study receiving antifungal therapy had lower quantities of the mould in the lung; the fungal load was much higher if the therapy had been stopped.

"Aspergillus infection is usually treatable, but might be able to explain why some asthmatic patients are having persistent symptoms on ," said Dr. Paul Bowyer, senior author on the study from The University of Manchester.

"We stress there is no danger to any individuals taking steroids to alleviate their asthma.

"But nevertheless this data is important because it may help doctors to consider additional treatments to individuals with allergies to this mould associated with steroids, so they may be helped more effectively."

Dr. Bowyer and Dr. Livingstone Chisimba, also from The University of Manchester and colleagues from Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust examined the airways of 48 people with mild to , and 10 volunteers with no symptoms.

Dr. Chisimba said: "With higher Aspergillus loads seen in those on , we believe these data combined with genetic or other biological markers of asthma will uncover a fundamental understanding of the role of the fungal infections in asthma.

"This is a telling finding."

Though different fungi were found with variation between , the most common was Aspergillus.

Multiple different isolated spores of the mould were detected in the same lung, possibly, say the team, because excess mucus—a characteristic feature of —acts as an efficient spore trap.

That, they explain, allows the spores from inhaled air to accumulate . Excess mucus is able to protect Aspergillus from the body's normal defences, they say.

The research is published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Explore further: Time of day affects test results for asthma, researchers find

More information: Marcin G. Fraczek et al. Corticosteroid treatment is associated with increased filamentous fungal burden in allergic fungal disease, Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.jaci.2017.09.039

Related Stories

Time of day affects test results for asthma, researchers find

December 8, 2017
New research presented today (Friday 8th December) at the British Thoracic Society Winter Meeting shows the human body clock significantly impacts on sample results used to diagnose and treat asthma when taken at different ...

Steroids not effective for chest infections in non-asthmatic adults

August 22, 2017
Oral steroids should not be used for treating acute lower respiratory tract infection (or 'chest infections') in adults who don't have asthma or other chronic lung disease, as they do not reduce the duration or severity of ...

Treating asthma or COPD with steroid inhaler raises the risk of hard-to-treat infections

September 20, 2017
Older people who use steroid inhalers for asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are more likely to suffer particular bacterial infections, according to a large study published in the European Respiratory ...

Recommended for you

Researchers identify source of molecule linked to nasal polyps, asthma attacks

May 23, 2018
A new discovery about how the immune system responds to common sinus infections and asthma could explain why patients develop these issues in the first place and ultimately may lead to improved targeted therapies. Researchers ...

Study demonstrates new treatment for severe asthma

May 22, 2018
Researchers from McMaster University and the Firestone Institute for Respiratory Health at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton, together with colleagues at other partnering institutions, have developed a new method to treat ...

Eczema drug effective against severe asthma

May 21, 2018
Two new studies of patients with difficult-to-control asthma show that the eczema drug dupilumab alleviates asthma symptoms and improves patients' ability to breathe better than standard therapies. Dupilumab, an injectable ...

Neuron guidance factor found to play a key role in immune cell function

May 21, 2018
Macrophages are white blood cells involved in a variety of biological functions, from destroying infectious pathogens to repairing damaged tissue. To carry out their different roles, macrophages must first be activated and ...

Immune cells hold promise in slowing down ALS

May 21, 2018
Recent research from Houston Methodist Hospital showed that a new immunotherapy was safe for patients with ALS and also revealed surprising results that could bring hope to patients who have this relentlessly progressive ...

First clues to the causes of multiple sclerosis

May 16, 2018
Multiple sclerosis, which affects one in 1,000 people, is frequently characterised by relapses associated with variable functional impairments including among others vision problems, impairment of locomotor functions or difficulties ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.