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I came across this on the sky news website and thought it may be of interest!

Asthma Test Could Help Thousands Of Children

Last Updated 12:47 08/01/2013

Thomas Moore, Health and Science Correspondent

A simple saliva test could identify thousands of children who are taking an asthma treatment that will never work for them.

The test identifies the one in seven people who have a variation in their genes that means they fail to respond to salmeterol.

The drug is prescribed in a purple or green inhaler to patients with severe asthma.

If children were found to carry the mutation they could be prescribed an alternative drug to reduce the risk of an asthma attack.

Professor Somnath Mukhopadhyay, who led the study, told Sky News: ""This is very important. We can't have a situation where we have a medicine for children that may not be effective.""

Researchers at Brighton and Sussex Medical School and Dundee University monitored 62 children with the mutation.

Results, published in the journal Clinical Science, show that those given a pill called montelukast, instead of salmeterol, improved significantly and needed less time off school.

""The results are pretty exciting,"" said Prof Mukhopadhyay.

""In the past we have been prescribing one medication after another, finding some are not effective and not knowing why.

""This is the first time we have been able to target treatment according to a patient's genes.""

The mutation alters the shape of a receptor in cells lining the airways that salmeterol would normally act on.

Prof Mukhopadhyay said a larger study is now urgently needed to confirm the findings. He hopes to develop a £15 saliva test for the mutation that could be used by GPs.

""In the meantime, parents of children who are taking salmeterol and not improving should see their GP,"" he said.

The Department of Health said genes are likely to increasingly be used in future to tailor treatment to individuals, but more research is needed before changes are made to asthma treatment.

4 Replies

Thanks for posting this clarebear - would obviously help adults as well! Thinking I might have this mutation given my total lack of response to salmeterol and great response to montelukast. Wonder if some people have a mutation that means montelukast doesn't work as some people don't seem to get on with it. Would be great if they could just test responses before giving them as I tried quite a few that didn't work which was frustrating and puzzling (good to know there was probably a good biological reason!)


Hi Philomela

Yes not sure why it only mentions children because as you say it could possibly explain why you and other adults don't respond well to the variety of meds you've tried! Lets hope it is soon available to anyone who could benefit.

Clare :-)


Well, I guess the study was on children. On the other hand the media sometimes seem to think only children have asthma - they don't seem to have heard of adult-onset a lot of the time, or worked out that maybe it doesn't magically go away at 16 for everyone and asthmatic children can become asthmatic adults! (Or it does, but then it comes back...).


I read this too but was on my phone so couldn't get it linked.

My youngest son had a dna test as part of a clinical study with montelukast through our local and st barts that sounded a lot like this. We should find out soon as although he had to drop out of the trial early due to his asthma being too uncontrolled the trial ends soon and they can unblind his reference number.

It'll be interesting to see as montelukast unfortunately didn't work for him.


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