Asthma study looks at genetic variation and influence response to microbial exposure

The "hygiene hypothesis" suggests that exposures to microbes early in life may drive immune system development in a way that reduces a person's susceptibility to asthma and other allergic diseases.

While the increase in asthma in the industrial, non-farming populations seems to supports the hygiene hypothesis, recent data suggest that the relationship between microbes and asthma and allergies is more complex than originally thought.

The National Institutes of Allergy, Immunology and Infectious Diseases (NIADI) has awarded the Arizona Respiratory Center a grant to study how genetic variation may influence response to microbial exposure.

This five-year, $2.5 million Microbial Innate Immunity in Asthma Pathogenesis Study (MIIAPS) study will build on an earlier UA study on immune system markers for asthma risk. More than 450 newborns and their parents have been enrolled in this study to evaluate changes in immune response in the first year of life, and provide a foundation for continued follow-up.

Asthma is the most frequent chronic condition in childhood in the United States. Knowledge from this study may reveal insights into the primary prevention of this extremely common and serious disease, the prevalence of which is increasing.

"These investigations of both genetic and environmental factors that influence immune system maturation may provide the basis for understanding the mechanisms underlying asthma susceptibility and resistance," says Marilyn Halonen, principal investigator of this study at the Arizona Respiratory Center and UA professor of pharmacology.


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