Asthma trial could save lives

Geelong researchers will lead a groundbreaking new trial that could save lives and significantly reduce the number of young children hospitalised with severe asthma.

Deakin University and Barwon Health will lead an Australia-wide clinical trial to test if an immunostimulant reduces wheezing illnesses in preschoolers.

The research is funded under a $1.7 million National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grant.

Lead researcher Professor Peter Vuillermin said asthma was the most common reason young children ended up in hospital.

He said if not treated correctly some asthma cases could be fatal.

"Other than ventolin we have no other treatment that is proven to be effective in preventing hospital admissions," Prof Vuillermin said.

He said there was sufficient evidence that showed children living in rural settings were less likely to develop wheezing illness that their urban counterparts.

"There is evidence that children living in a microbe-rich environment - children exposed to farming livestock - are at a reduced risk of being hospitalised with wheezing effect," Prof Vuillermin said. "There is some evidence that this protective effect is from the microorganisms."

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To try and replicate this protection the research team will examine if giving children, who have been hospitalised with asthma, a 12-month dose of immune medication OM-85 will lead to a reduction in readmissions.

Under the trial the Children's Inpatient Research Collaboration of Australia and New Zealand (CIRCAN) team will conduct research on 2000 children in 25 hospitals across Australia.

The children will be given either OM-85 or a placebo.



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