Asthma is a disease that makes breathing difficult. Researchers don’t know exactly what causes asthma but they do know that allergies, genetics and other factors can trigger the condition. There is currently no cure for the disease, but researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst have determined that for some patients, treatment with antibiotics can greatly reduce or even eliminate asthma symptoms.
Over 300 million people around the world have asthma, including close to 24 million in the United States. People with asthma have on-going inflammation in their lungs. During an asthma attack, the airways can swell and produce excess mucus which combines to make breathing difficult. At the same time, the muscles around the airways can clamp down which makes the airways even smaller so air cannot move freely in and out of the lungs.
Previous research has shown that people who have asthma are more likely to have the bacteria Chlamydia pneumoniae (C. pneumonia) in their lungs. This bacteria can cause the serious lung infection commonly known as pneumonia. When the immune system senses that something harmful has entered the body, it creates antibodies to fight off the invader. These antibodies, known as Immunoglobulin E or IgE antibodies, are specifically targeted for the invading particle.
Scientists can measure the levels of IgE that is specific to the C. pneumonia bacteria in a blood sample. New research from the Massachusetts research team showed that 55 percent of the asthma patients in the study had Chlamydia-specific IgE antibodies while only 12 percent of participants without asthma had those same antibodies. (Science Daily)
The team concluded that the presence of C. pneumonia bacteria in the lungs can cause significantly stronger asthma symptoms. Because bacteria are susceptible to antibiotic treatment, the researchers also studied the effects of antibiotics on asthma symptoms. Their research showed that patients with severe asthma symptoms who were treated with antibiotics often showed significant improvement and in some cases, became free from asthma symptoms.