Three Research Institutes Unite to Reduce the Burden of Asthma

Five studies collaboratively funded by the NIEHS, NHLBI, and NIAID explore ways of preventing and treating asthma.

As asthma prevalence increases, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) continue to act as leading forces in asthma research.

While each group focuses on a different aspect of asthma research, all are “united in a commitment to reduce the burden of this debilitating disease” that affects more than 25 million Americans, according to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) press release.1

Five studies, collaboratively funded by the NIEHS, NHLBI, and NIAID are highlighted below:

  • An original investigation2 led by Wanda Phipatanakul, MD, MS, of the division of allergy and immunology at Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts, found that airborne mouse allergens at inner-city schools could be linked to increased asthma symptoms and decreased lung function in children. Results from this study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, suggest that a child’s school environment can be “an important contributor to childhood asthma and morbidity.”
  • Dr Phipatanakul also spearheaded a study3 examining the levels of outdoor air pollution exposure experienced by children in inner-city classrooms. The investigators identified a correlation between increased outdoor and indoor levels of traffic-related black carbon.
  • Another school-focused study examined the efficacy and feasibility of classroom-based high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters in urban elementary schools.4 The pilot study found that HEPA filters in classrooms resulted in significant reductions in the levels of various types of particulate matter.
  • A 2016 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine5 investigated the role the immune system plays in the prevalence of asthma in certain populations. Specifically, the investigators focused on the various environmental exposures experienced by children in the Amish and Hutterite communities, noting that the Amish — whose farming methods favor animals over machines — are exposed to a wider range of bacteria and microbes, possibly creating a protective benefit against developing asthma.
  • A final study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology,6 demonstrated that mold and fungi are “potent immunomodulators,” and that exposure may increase a person’s, especially children’s, likelihood of developing asthma.

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  1. NIH research improves health for people with asthma [news release]. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health (NIH). Published May 1, 2017. Accessed May 9, 2017.
  2. Sheehan WJ, Permaul P, Petty CR, et al. Association between allergen exposure in inner-city schools and asthma morbidity among students. JAMA Pediatr. 2017;171:31-38. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2016.2543
  3. Gaffin JM, Petty CR, Hauptman M, et al. Modeling indoor particulate exposures in inner-city school classrooms [published online September 7, 2016]. J Expo Sci Env Epid. doi:10.1038/jes.2016.52
  4. Jhun I, Gaffin JM, Coull BA, et al. School environmental intervention to reduce particular pollutant exposures for children with asthma. J Aller Cl Imm-Pract. 2017;5:154-159.e3. doi:10.1016/j.jaip.2016.07.018
  5. Stein MM, Hrusch CL, Gozdz J, et a. Innate immunity and asthma risk in Amish and Hutterite farm children. N Engl J Med. 2016;375:411-421. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1508749
  6. Zhang Z, Myers JMB, Brandt EB, et al. β-glucan exacerbates allergic asthma independent of fungal sensitization and promotes steroid-resistant TH2/TH17 responses. J Allergy Clin Immun. 2017;139:54-65.e8. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2016.02.031