Australian scientists have revealed what they believe is a promising new treatment for the most severe forms of asthma.

The researchers, from the University of South Australia and Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, found that a family of proinflammatory molecules called beta common cytokines control inflammation and scarring of the airways (fibrosis) in severe and steroid-resistant asthma.

They believe that a human therapeutic antibody called trabikihart could be the key to effectively blocking the inflammation and scarring.

The findings are published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Joint study leader Damon Tumes, PhD, head of the allergy and cancer immunology laboratory in the Centre for Cancer Biology at the University of South Australia, says the findings are significant. “Inflammation and tissue damage in severe asthma is caused by several types of immune cells that enter the lungs due to allergens, viruses, and other microbes that interact with the airways,” Tumes says in a release.  “In some people, the inflammation is resistant to steroids—the first treatment option for controlling severe asthma.

“Currently, limited treatment options are available for severe asthma. New and existing drugs often only target single molecules when multiple overlapping cells and inflammatory pathways are responsible for asthma. Targeting multiple inflammatory cytokines with a single drug may be the key to treat and control complex and severe chronic airway disease.”

The most recent statistics show a 30% rise in asthma-related deaths in Australia (467 people) in 2022, with South Australia recording the most drastic increase at 88%. According to experts, most of the deaths were preventable and were linked to people not having treatment on hand, or using it as prescribed, especially inhaled corticosteroids.

2022 marked the highest number of asthma deaths since 2017 in Australia, partly driven by the post-COVID-19 return of viral respiratory infections which are associated with increases in asthma hospitalizations. Widespread rainfall, triggering an increase in fungal spores and pollen, is also a factor. 

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