Asthma Research Outcomes

Australia has some of the world’s best researchers in asthma. But we could achieve even greater outcomes with more research. And that means funding.

Asthma Australia has a strategic research plan for the future that can create significant impact for all people with asthma in our country, but we cannot do it without support.

Here are some examples of the integral work being done by our pre-eminent scientists around the country. Your contribution to Asthma Australia allows us to do more and will help secure the future of asthma research in Australia.

All donations go towards supporting education and research initiatives just like these. Be part of the next big asthma research breakthrough by donating today.

Dr Elysia Hollams: Investigating relationships between vitamin D status and asthma and allergy development throughout childhood

Vitamin D deficiency has been highlighted as a possible risk factor for asthma development. However, there have been no prospective studies tracking Vitamin D levels, and studies measuring Vitamin D levels  at select timepoints have yielded conflicting results. Dr Hollams research measured Vitamin D levels at seven time points between birth and 10 years of age. The relationships between these measurements and clinical outcomes were examined.

Dr Hollams found Vitamin D deficiency in early childhood was associated with increased risk for persistent asthma. These relationships were only evident when vitamin D status was monitored prospectively and over a long period of time.

Asthma Australia is now funding a research project to determine the ideal timepoint of Vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy.

Matthew Morten: The impact of better asthma management during pregnancy on the lung function of the child (Growing into asthma study)

Recent studies have shown the benefit of using a FeNO algorithm and clinical symptoms to adjust medication during pregnancy, compared to management using clinical symptoms alone. In particular, the Managing Asthma in Pregnancy study showed asthma exacerbations during pregnancy were reduced by 50 per cent using the FeNO method.

Matthew’s research involved following up the infants born to mothers in the Managing Asthma in Pregnancy study to determine the outcomes for the infants. His research found infants born to mothers in the FeNO group had reduced rates of doctor diagnosed asthma. Additionally, frequent wheeze, use of reliever medication and emergency department visits in the last 12 months were also less common for children born to mothers in the FeNO group. These studies were only carried out with non-smoking women and compared FENO management to management of asthma above what is currently recognised as best practice care.

A new study is currently underway to assess the effectiveness of FENO guided asthma management amongst smokers and non-smokers compared with usual best practice care (Breathing for Life). This will hopefully also provide guidance about the application of this method in routine antenatal care and other settings.

Helen Petsky: Reference values for FeNO levels in Indigenous children and young adults.

This project aimed to address the current lack of data on fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO) levels for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young adults (aged 3-25). FeNO levels give a quantitative measure of airway inflammation and help with appropriate diagnosis and treatment of asthma in Indigenous Australians. Research has indicated that there needs to be specific FeNO ranges for different ethnic populations.

The project recruited 991 Indigenous children and young adults (aged three to 25 years), and acceptable FENO measurements were achieved by 401 healthy children and 193 healthy adults. Participants with a history of respiratory and/or allergy symptoms were excluded.

The average FENO result for children and adults was 11.1ppb and 12.5ppb respectively. Although the majority of results were within the age respective normal ranges, there was a proportion of healthy participants with elevated FeNO results. The elevated results were seen in the Torres Strait Islander children (11 per cent), Torres Strait Islander adults (7 per cent) and the children who identify as both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (7 per cent). These results suggest that the recommended cut-off ranges may not be appropriate for these groups. Further investigation into FeNO ranges for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young adults is needed.

John Upham: Improving asthma through lifestyle interventions, how much exercise is best?

Asthma Australia has provided funding for research investigating what type of exercise intensity offers the greatest benefits for people with asthma. It is hoped this research will be able to contribute to more meaningful exercise guidelines for people with asthma.

The research consists of two studies. The first investigated the impact of once-off moderate and vigorous intensity exercise on airway inflammation in people with asthma. The second study will investigate the influence of three months of exercise training on asthma symptoms and quality of life.

Initial results from study one suggests moderate intensity exercise has anti-inflammatory benefits four hours after exercise; the same results were not observable after vigorous intensity exercise. Asthma Australia looks forward to sharing the results and implications from the second study.

Melissa Cheung: Using drawings to further understanding of people’s perceptions and experiences of their asthma

Asthma Australia provided funding to postgraduate research exploring the perceptions of asthma through drawing and interviews, and how these differ between patients with asthma and healthcare professionals.

Analysis of themes shows healthcare professionals drawings and interviews were clinically focused while patients expressed the profound impact asthma has on their physical, emotional and social wellbeing as well as their life journey with asthma.

Patients also used more colour, metaphors and symbolism in their drawings to demonstrate this. Healthcare professionals were surprised by the intensity of emotions and reported patients did not regularly share these concerns.

This research highlights the differing perspectives of the effects of asthma and what can be discussed during clinical encounters. It demonstrates the positive benefits creative methods can provide to give healthcare professionals a deeper understanding of patient experience.