Giving a mild allergic asthma patient an antibody, which blocks a specific protein in the lungs, markedly improved asthmatic symptoms such as wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and cough after the patient had inhaled an environmental allergen, according to new research.

The study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, concluded that blocking a protein called thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP), which causes inflammation, both alleviates baseline inflammation and provides resistance to allergens for those with mild allergic asthma.

The study – conducted by the Clinical Investigator Collaborative, a multi-centre, Phase II clinical trials group supported by the Allergy, Genes and Environment Network (AllerGen) – recruited 31 patients over five sites across Canada. After 12 weeks of participant monitoring, the antibodies significantly reduced baseline inflammation and protected the participants against inhaled allergens when compared to a placebo.

“This study, for the first time, proved that these cells continually produce [TSLP] in humans with asthma,” said Paul O’Byrne of St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and McMaster University. “While we studied patients with allergic asthma, this research opens the door for the development of new treatments not only for this population, but for those diagnosed with severe asthma as well.”

Individuals with allergic asthma are typically treated with inhaled corticosteroids or bronchodilators that help to control their asthma when taken regularly. While antibodies are typically reserved for severe asthma, this research can lead to antibody treatment for those who have mild allergic asthma. This study can lead to quality of life improvements for those with allergic asthma that have issues with inhalers or steroid-based medications.