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New urine test could help ensure children receive the right level of treatment to prevent future asthma attacks

A new urine test could help ensure asthmatic children receive the level of medication they need to manage their illness better and prevent future asthma attacks, according to new research being presented at The British Thoracic Society Winter Meeting.

The study, conducted by Queen Mary University of London, in partnership with Jagiellonian University Medical School in Krakow, Poland, was developed to investigate the most efficient and non-invasive way of finding the optimum level of anti-inflammatory treatment for asthmatic children.

Researchers reviewed 73 children aged 7-15 years and found that a urine test can accurately measure levels of inflammation within the urine. They analysed levels of ‘prostaglandin metabolites’ (chemicals released by immune cells that are activated in asthma) and found that one of the “protective” prostaglandins was greatly reduced in those children who went on to have an asthma attack within three months.

Testing was carried out among children with asthma on days when they had no symptoms, and the researchers counted the number of days when they received medical attention or missed school due to asthma symptoms. These urine samples were compared with those of children who did not have asthma.

Dr Rossa Brugha, co-author of the report and Clinical Research Fellow at Queen Mary University of London hospital, said:

“The key factor in treating children with asthma is to tailor their medicine accurately, ensuring the right amount of anti-inflammatory medication is being prescribed.

This simple urine test provides an accurate way to assess chemical markers in the child’s urine, which show the level of inflammation caused by the asthma.

When children see their GP for their annual review, we hope that this test can help indicate the level of steroid medication they actually need.If implemented it will help the child to manage their asthma more effectively and hopefully reduce the number of asthma attacks.”

In the UK, 1.1 million children are currently receiving treatment for asthma, which equals 1 in 11 children. On average, there are two children with asthma in every classroom in the UK.

Dr Bernard Higgins, Chairman of the British Thoracic Society Executive Committee, and consultant lung specialist at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle said:

“GPs manage a large number of children with asthma throughout the UK – and this simple test could help them to prescribe tailored treatment.   Most of all this is good news for the well-being of our children with asthma, but attacks of asthma are expensive to treat and if this helps us prevent them it could also save vital NHS resources”

Asthma is a condition that affects the airways – the small tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. When a person with asthma comes into contact with something that irritates their airways (an asthma trigger), the muscles around the walls of the airways tighten and become narrower, and the lining of the airways becomes inflamed and starts to swell, causing difficulty in breathing and leading to symptoms of asthma.

The UK has among the highest prevalence rates of asthma symptoms in children worldwide, and there were 25,073 emergency hospital admissions for children in the UK in 2011-2012. That means on average there were 69 per day, or one every 21 minutes.


Source: British Thoracic Society