Thursday, November 11, 2010
Asthma attacks found to be caused by suppressed immune system
A study published in the journal Nature Medicine has found that asthma sufferers have low levels of an immune system protein that acts as the lungs' first defense against the cold viruses that can cause severe asthma attacks.
Researchers from Imperial College and the Medical Research Council Centre on Allergic Mechanisms of Asthma compared the lung cells of people with and without asthma, and found that asthma sufferers have low levels of interferon -- an antiviral protein generated by the immune system to fight off common cold viruses called rhinovirus. The researchers found a direct correlation between low levels of the protein and higher severity of asthma attacks.
"The discovery of this mechanism could be of huge importance in how we treat asthma attacks," says Professor Sebastian Johnston, the study's lead researcher. "Delivery of the deficient interferons by inhalers could be an ideal way to treat and prevent severe attacks of asthma, potentially vastly improving the quality of life for many asthma patients."
Johnston's team is currently conducting trials to discover why asthma sufferers have low interferon levels, as well as how to treat them. Asthma experts have welcomed the results of the study, and are working on treatments to increase levels of interferon in asthma patients.
"What this study really shows," explained Mike Adams, a consumer health advocate, "is that asthma should be treated by supporting the patient's immune system function, not by hijacking the biochemistry of the lungs with synthetic chemicals and antihistamines. Conventional medical researchers look at these results and conclude that interferons should be artificially blasted into the lungs," Adams adds, "but the more obvious solution is to help patients manufacture their own interferon proteins, which they do freely and automatically when immune function is restored through nutritional therapies, stress reduction, avoidance of toxic chemicals and other natural health strategies."