Sunday, June 27, 2004

How does this explain the epidemic? (Today's Asthma News)

Asthma Emerging as Genetic Disorder

I'll skip the first few paragraphs, which outline the general background info -- asthma responsible for 14 million missed school days, growing epidemic, yada, yada, yada.

Here's the meat-and-potatoes (or TVP and cous-cous, in my case!):

Dr. Deborah Gentile, an asthma specialist at Allegheny General Hospital, in Pittsburgh, said immunologists are increasingly coming to understand asthma as a genetic disorder -- at least, in its beginnings. "We're thinking that there are different types of asthma driven by different genes."

A child with one parent who has asthma has a 30 percent chance of developing the airway condition herself. If both parents have it, her odds of getting it approach 70 percent -- not a given but a stacked deck.

Gentile said there are three factors that contribute to a person's risk of asthma. The first is the genetic legacy from parents; the second is exposure to infections and irritants that "program" the immune system and make it sensitive. The third is timing: It seems that the immune system is particularly sensitive during the first two years of life, Gentile said, so children with the right combination of genes and the right mix of exposures early in life are at the greatest risk of developing asthma.

skipping irrelevant stuff...."It's important to distinguish exposures that cause asthma versus those that exacerbate existing asthma," Camargo said. "Although these are, at times, the same, there are also factors that worsen existing asthma but are unlikely to cause disease," such as strong odors like perfumes, he said.

And you can find the whole article here:

My thoughts: If I'm understanding the research correctly, this reinforces the theory that the bronchiolitis and RSV Bryn had suffered by 18 months probably DID cause his asthma -- in conjunction with his dad's history of severe allergies.

What it doesn't explain in the least is why asthma is reaching epidemic proportions...

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