Asthma sufferers may breathe easier as ground-breaking antifungal treatment hailed by Manchester scientists

By Danielle Wainwright

Almost five million UK asthma sufferers could benefit from the use of antifungal therapy according to researchers from The University of Manchester and the University of Toronto.

An estimated 4,837,000 asthmatics have a specific type of airway inflammation known as allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA), with 193 million sufferers world-wide.

Clinical studies have shown that oral antifungal drugs significantly improve symptoms in those with ABPA – and the treatment is endorsed by medical organisation Cochrane Collaboration.

Professor of Medicine and Medical Mycology at The University of Manchester, David Denning, led the study into the total number of asthmatics worldwide.

He said: “We were surprised by the number of patients with ABPA, and by the lack of community based studies done.

“Our National Aspergillosis Centre treats hundreds of these patients each year, generally with major improvement, and so a conscious program to seek out ABPA from all asthmatics is required.”

In national league tables of asthma rates in adults, the UK is third for high prevalence of ABPA with Australia and Sweden taking the top spots. In global league tables of ABPA occurrence, New Zealand topped the list with a 3.5% rate in new patients attending chest clinics at hospitals.

In addition to standard asthma therapy, the antifungal therapy used is itraconazole – now a generic, inexpensive drug – with a response rate of 60%. The researchers also found that antifungal therapy also benefits patients with severe asthma sensitised to fungi, called SAFS.

Alternatives were also tested, some of which have 75-80% response rates.

In a recent assessment of medication voriconazole and posaconazole for both ABPA and SAFS, 75% of patients were able to stop taking oral corticosteroids, a major benefit, and 38% of patients had their asthma severity downgraded on antifungal therapy.

Image courtesy of NIH, via WikiCommons, with thanks.

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