A MEDICAL discovery of “unexpected magnitude” by University of Newcastle researchers could lead to major breakthroughs that could prevent children from developing asthma.
A trial has found that improved asthma treatment of pregnant women delivers profound benefits to their babies.
The treatment their mothers received reduced the newborns’ chances of developing the common respiratory diseases croup and bronchiolitis by 90per cent.
These illnesses increase a baby’s chance of developing asthma later in life.
The research also confirmed that environmental factors – not just genetics – play a part in the development of asthma.
Professor Joerg Mattes and Dr Vanessa Murphy were part of the team of Newcastle researchers who studied 220 pregnant women.
They will now look to confirm their results on a larger trial of 1000 women.
“The results have been really exciting, it’s great it could lead to a possible way of preventing asthma in children,” Dr Murphy said.
Professor Mattes pointed to the study’s “stunning” results in improving the health of babies after halving the number of asthma attacks their pregnant mums’ had.
“We were really stunned by the magnitude of the effect on respiratory health in infancy,” he said.
“We believe it is now important to follow this up in a larger study to verify the results and move to translate this into health policy.”
Professor Mattes said it was possible that asthma attacks could trigger an immune system response in the mother and baby and the stress this caused might affect the child’s lung growth, although more research needed to be done.
For Newcastle mum Jodi Slinn, who was involved in the trial and had the improved treatment, the thought that her daughter Olivia, 3, might not have to go through asthma like she did is an exciting one.
Mrs Slinn grew up struggling to cope with certain sports because of her asthma and always had to make sure she had her puffer near by.
The mother and daughter were at the Hunter Medical Research Institute yesterday where tests were done on Olivia’s lungs – and everything was found to be working perfectly.
“I just like the thought that asthma can come under environmental factors,” Mrs Slinn said.
“It’s much nicer to think by controlling asthma in the pregnancy that she [Olivia] might not have to worry about it and avoid going through that.”