Asthma study trials antibiotic therapy
A national study investigating the use of antibiotics as a potential therapy for chronic asthma attacks is entering its final recruitment phase, five years after it commenced.
Around 360 patients with moderate to severe asthma, who regularly take preventer medication, have previously enrolled for the AMAZES (Asthma and Macrolides: Azithromycin Efficacy and Safety) study – a further 60 are needed to complete the University of Newcastle project.
The study is being conducted at Newcastle's John Hunter Hospital, three sites in Sydney, along with Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. Participants are monitored for 48 weeks while receiving a low-dose antibiotic or a placebo tablet.
"We showed in a previous study of 45 people that macrolide antibiotics can reduce inflammation and improve quality of life for people with persistent asthma," lead investigator Professor Peter Gibson said.
"This larger study will help us determine the effectiveness and safety of this new approach to treating asthma that's unresponsive to steroid medication."
Current asthma medications target the eosinophil cell whereas the antibiotic therapy is designed to reduce inflammation caused by a different cell, called a neutrophil. Researchers believe the antibiotic will enhance quality of life and decrease the number of exacerbations resulting in hospitalisation or prednisone (corticosteroid) use.
Study participants undergo a breathing test every 12 weeks and receive a phone call every three weeks from respiratory researchers. All non-smoking adults who are currently taking asthma medication are eligible to participate.
"We don't have results at this stage because it is a blinded randomised trial, but it's quite common for people to feel better during the study because they're more diligent in taking their medications and more aware of their asthma trigger," trial coordinator Catherine Delahunty said.
Hunter Valley firm Tomago Aluminium provided seed-funding in 2003 for the pilot study which subsequently evolved into AMAZES, the largest asthma research trial in Australia with $2.9 million in funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council.
Therapy-resistant asthma is increasingly recognised as a major unmet need, and the use of antibiotics aligns with guidelines supported by the European Respiratory Society and American Thoracic Society.
* The AMAZES study comprises researchers from Hunter New England Health and the University of Newcastle who are members of HMRI's Viruses, Infections/Immunity, Vaccines and Asthma Research Program. HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.
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