The report notes that research at the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College, London has resulted in an allergic asthma vaccine candidate that works by gradually desensitizing the immune system so its reaction to a particular substance is reduced over time. It is based upon immunotherapy, where patients are given injections of peptide fragments of specific allergens to stimulate a minor immune reaction from the body's natural defenses. With repeated injections over time, the immune system becomes less sensitive and produces less extreme reactions.
In preliminary clinical testing, patients whose asthma attacks are triggered by an allergy to cats were found to have a 50% reduced reaction to the trigger and some were left with only minor symptoms. A company called Circassia has been established to further develop a commercial product.
The most effective treatment for asthma is identifying triggers, such as pets, aspirin or rapid temperature changes, and limiting or eliminating exposure to them. If trigger avoidance is insufficient, medical treatment is available. Prescription medicines such as inhaled short-acting beta-2 agonists may be used to treat acute attacks; bronchodilators and anti-inflammatories may also be used. Despite the growing number of new medications, as many as half of all asthma sufferers indicate that their condition inhibits their ability to participate in sports and recreation. For 15% of patients, medications cannot control their symptoms at all, creating a demand for novel methods to prevent or treat asthma, such as a vaccine.
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