With more than 260 million people affected worldwide, asthma is not a minor problem. From awareness efforts to home treatments being developed to help those affected, these are the people and projects leading the charge to address it.
Often underdiagnosed and undertreated, and often dismissed as an insignificant childhood disease, the reality is that asthma can be a deadly killer, claiming more than 1,000 lives every day and affecting an estimated 262 million people worldwide. Globally, asthma remains the most common chronic disease among children, according to the World Health Organization.
Indoor and outdoor allergens, urbanization, poor air quality, and exposure to tobacco smoke are major causes, and while medications can help control the disease, a reluctance to engage in long-term treatment is frustrating. Progress.
“That is really illogical to the vast majority of people. They forget, life gets in the way.”
Advances in biologic therapies (injectable drugs that block inflammation) bring hope to those with severe asthma, but these treatments can be costly and costly. up to $39,000 (£32,349) per year per patient.
Urbanization and poor air quality are the main causes of asthma. Image: Mink Mingle
“They’re really effective, but we know not enough people are using them,” Walker says. “It’s not about cost. I think there’s a perception problem both on the part of the patient and potentially on the part of some doctors and nurses who think, ‘well, it’s just asthma, we don’t have to worry too much about it.’
“But those at risk can and do die, and that’s tragic, particularly when it comes to young people.”
Perhaps, as always, prevention is better than cure. With that in mind, Positive News delved into three initiatives that aim to help us all breathe a little easier.
1. Doctors cycling for cleaner air
Proven links between poor air quality and asthma were highlighted by the death of 9-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah in the UK with a forensic opinion in 2020 that road traffic pollution contributed to the asthma attack that killed her.
Medical professionals united in response to the tragedy by launching an awareness campaign, walk through their liveswhich saw more than 30 NHS workers cycling from London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children to Cop26 in Glasgow.
The idea sparked a wave of collaborative action around the world, with races coinciding with last year’s Cop27 taking place in Europe, the United States and as far away as Coyhaique in Chilean Patagonia.
Recently retired pediatrician Dr Heather Lambert, formerly of the Great North Children’s Hospital in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, was part of a team that cycled nearly 1,000 miles from Geneva to Naples last October.
Ride for their Lives is about healthcare people acknowledging what the problem is and saying, ‘time is running out’
“We met all kinds of climate activists along the way,” he said. “People trying to reduce traffic around schools and playgrounds, or trying to increase low emission zones and clean air zones.
“We have to get away from burning fossil fuels and have our children inhale all those emissions because it is having a very bad effect on their health.
“Ride for their Lives is about healthcare people acknowledging what the problem is and saying, ‘time is running out; we actually need to be a lot more vocal about it,” she added.
2. Using biotechnology to tackle a big problem
If the thought of sharing your bed with two and a half million dust mites fills you with horror, think about the 60 percent of asthmatics caused by these microbugs chewing through skin cells.
Dust mite feces contain a protein recognized as a major allergen-related cause of asthma, and unlike seasonal attacks caused by pollen, its effects can be felt year-round.
To add to the overall ick factor, these microscopic creatures thrive on bedding, carpets, furniture, and even stuffed toys. While steps can be taken to mitigate their impact, they are impossible to eradicate from the home, and chemical pesticides have proven largely ineffective.
Dust mites can be found in bedding and even stuffed toys. Image: Kelly Sikkema
One company that takes a pioneering approach is American startup Aeris Biotechnologies. Instead of chemicals, Aeris uses biological control, working on the principle that all organisms have natural enemies that keep their populations in check.
For Aeris, that natural enemy is likely to be a fungus-based insecticide that is administered as fine granules or powder and spread on carpets or injected into bedding.
“[It] it infects dust mites and spreads abroad,” explains Dr. David Harper, co-founder of Aeris Biotechnologies. “Mites become the vector that spreads it among the population, not only in the rest of the mattress but also in the places it cannot reach, such as the dust under the floorboards.”
Harper’s method has been patented in seven territories, including the US, UK and EU, and he hopes to bring it to market within four years.
3. Quit smoking to save lives
Despite smoking being a proven asthma trigger, nearly one-fifth of adults with asthma in the US still smoke, putting them at risk for attacks that can lead to lung damage over time long-lasting and diseases such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
But not everyone who inhales tobacco smoke does so by choice.
Secondhand or environmental tobacco smoke also exacerbates asthma symptoms and triggers attacks, and children are especially at risk.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America says that up to 40 percent of children who need emergency hospital treatment for asthma live with smokers. Meanwhile a Truth Initiative reporta US-based non-profit organization that aims to consign smoking to the ash heap of history, reveals that one in six youth with the disease is exposed to secondhand smoke in the home.
More than 15 percent of youth with asthma are exposed to secondhand smoke at home. Image: Andrés Simón
A leading player in the global fight against smoking is The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, backed by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Marking its 25th anniversary in 2022, the organization is campaigning against predatory tobacco marketing to teens and has led calls for a proposed ban by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). ) of menthol and flavored cigarettes.
Writing in his latest annual report, Chairman Matthew L. Myers said, “A quarter century of going toe-to-toe with the tobacco industry has demonstrated the power of relentless advocacy to save lives.”
Lead image: hsyncoban