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Health Watch: New therapies for asthma sufferers

Historically, St. Louis has ranked among the worst cities when it comes to asthma (1 out of 11 children have asthma here). At one point, the city was considered the asthma-allergy capital of the U.S. The key is to know what triggers your asthma and have an action plan to manage it accordingly. Although there is no cure for asthma, SLUCare pulmonologist Dr. Ghassan Kamel is using new, targeted biologic therapies, which is giving asthma sufferers hope.

Asthma is a disease that causes the airways of the lungs to swell and narrow. This reduces the amount of air that can pass through the airway, and leads to wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing.

St. Louis is particularly challenging for asthma sufferers. The city sits between two rivers, so the mold and pollen numbers are always high, triggering both asthma and allergy attacks. Asthma symptoms can also be triggered by: Animals (pet hair or dander); Dust mites; Certain medicines (aspirin and other NSAIDS); Changes in weather (most often cold weather); Chemicals in the air or in food; Exercise; Respiratory infections, such as the common cold; Strong emotions (stress); Tobacco smoke

Sadly, children who live with persistent asthma in childhood are at a higher risk of developing lung problems later in life. A small number of patients even exhibited symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, in early adulthood.

There is no cure for asthma, although, with proper management and treatments, symptoms may improve over time. Asthma treatments may include control medicines to prevent attacks and rescue medicines (like an inhaler) to help during an attack. Currently omalizumab, mepolizumab and reslizumab are the only FDA-approved monoclonal antibodies available for asthma treatment. Despite significant costs related to these agents, the benefits of reduced exacerbations, reduced steroid burden, and the potential for decreased healthcare utilization are encouraging.

SLUCare pulmonologists are offering a revolutionary way to treat asthma: using biologic agents to provide targeted therapy for patients with specific asthma phenotypes. Biologics target what causes the obstructive disoder instead of focusing on the underlying inflammation and/or symptoms. The first biologic was insulin. Others include vaccines; blood and blood components; allergy therapy; gene therapy.

To learn more about asthma treatment and options, click here.

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