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Immune stimulant could help prevent asthma in children

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A recent study by respiratory researchers from Perth has found that OM-85, an immune stimulant, could help prevent babies from developing asthma.

Led by PhD student Niamh Troy from the University of Western Australia and Wal-yan Respiratory Research Centre, the study showed that the medication that contains a mixture of dead bacteria protected babies from severe lung infections. “Severe respiratory viral infections in early life are linked to asthma development later in life,” Troy said.

The latest findings build on a 2019 clinical trial with collaborators at The University of Queensland. “Our previous research found it was possible to reduce the severity of respiratory infections in babies using OM-85 but for this study we wanted to understand how it changed their immune system,” Troy said.

Troy and her collaborators looked at samples from babies who were given OM-85 or a placebo to see how their immune genes functioned when faced with infection.

“We found that the babies who received the Immune stimulant had a stronger immune ‘alarm’ system that sent a signal to the immune system in the early stages of infection. We also found those babies had lower inflammatory responses to infection,” Troy said.

“Essentially, we found the treatment ‘trained’ the babies’ immune defences, which helped them to be able fight off severe infections. It didn’t stop the usual colds and sniffles that babies get, but it stopped these infections getting really bad. And it is these bad infections that can increase the risk of asthma later on.

“We were missing a piece of the puzzle. Understanding why this treatment works is critical to progressing this therapy into routine clinical care — and hopefully one day preventing children from developing asthma.”

These findings are said to help inform the Wal-yan Centre’s goal of developing a vaccine-like approach to prevent asthma. “By understanding how OM-85 helps babies to fight off respiratory infections, we’re one step closer to understanding how to prevent them going on to develop asthma,” Troy said.

“We are really excited about these findings. We hope to extend our research into larger trials and work with international collaborators with the aim of making this treatment available to all babies that are at risk of asthma.”

 

Original content from Hospitals and Healthcare. Note: Content has been edited for style and length.

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