House dust mites trigger asthma
attacks through trickery


Research on mice by Dr Christopher Karp of the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center has found that the main allergen in house-dust-mite faeces, called Der p 2, caused their immune systems to react as though they had been attacked by a bacterial infection and triggered asthma-like attacks in mice who had been sensitised to
‘suffer from asthma’.

Around 90% of people with asthma are sensitive to the droppings of house dust mites, the tiny creatures that live in the dust that builds up in carpets, bedding, soft furnishings and soft toys in the home. Although scientists have discovered the precise identity of many of the asthma-triggering allergens in pollen, dust, mould and animal dander, until now they haven’t known why the human body should respond to these allergens in such a destructive way.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Elaine Vickers, from Asthma UK, said that Dr Karp’s discovery is an important step forward. A similar mechanism could well be behind the effects of other allergens, and this new understanding should help scientists create new asthma treatments.

Nature on line

Click here for more research on the possible causes of asthma


First Published in March 2009

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