Currently, the diagnostics tests for asthma do not provide conclusive results. Incorrect diagnosis has led to inhalers being prescribed without definitive reasoning. According to Asthma UK, better diagnostic tests are urgently required. A study at the Hershey Medical Center, has found asthma biomarkers required to develop the first diagnostic blood test. This test may overcome the limitations physicians have on diagnosing the condition, according to Dr. Faoud T. Ishmael.

WHAT IS ASTHMA?

Asthma is respiratory disease that causes inflammation of the airways, narrowing the pathway for breathing. Patients with this condition experience wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing and chest tightness. This condition can affect people across all age groups. Bronchial asthma has increased by 2 fold in Indian children over the last 10 years; cities like Delhi demonstrate high prevalence at 11.6% (Pal et al., 2009). The WHO has listed it as one of the major health problems in the country.

DO YOU KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ASTHMA SUBTYPES?

There are many subtypes of the condition, including non-allergic or allergic asthma and the presence or absence of eosinophils, which are immune cells.

“There’s not a good way right now to understand what those different sub-types are…This goes back to the underlying issue, which is that we don’t have a good blood test to tell us what’s really going on in the lungs.”

Dr. Faoud T. Ishmael, Hershey Medical Center at the Penn State College of Medicine

MICRO-RNAS, A REVELATION IN MEDICAL RESEARCH

Micro-RNAs (miRNAs) that were once considered ‘junk-DNA’ have been revealed by scientists as molecular footprints to diagnose and characterize diseases, according to the study at Hershey Medical Center.

“The role of miRNAs in asthma is not well understood, although it looks as though these molecules play very important roles in inflammation and in immune responses,” 

Dr. Faoud T. Ishmael, Hershey Medical Center at the Penn State College of Medicine
The researchers found 30 miRNAs that were important to detect respiratory conditions. These miRNA subtypes demonstrate molecular differences between asthma and allergic rhinitis. They have identified the various roles of these miRNAs in inflammation. In the next five years, we may be able to take a simple blood test that will identify the exact respiratory disorder presented by a patient. This prevents incorrect diagnoses and unnecessary changes in medication.

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