Researchers have begun a Phase II study into the effectiveness of the drug interferon beta for patients suffering from virus-triggered asthma symptoms.
An increase in the frequency of asthma attacks—or exacerbations—is commonly triggered by cold or flu viruses because the lungs of patients with the condition are unable to mount the strong immune response that normally protects healthy airways. When the infection spreads from the nose to the lungs it also causes inflammation which leads to such exacerbations.
In laboratory-based tests, researchers have found that the lungs are able to protect themselves when the protein interferon beta is introduced.
“If the drug works as we hope it will, it could significantly improve the quality of life for these patients and lessen the number of patients admitted to hospital,” said Ratko Djukanovic, MD, a clinical respiratory specialist at the University of Southampton’s School of Medicine and Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust, and director of the Southampton Respiratory Biomedical Research Unit. “However, it is important to stress that there are a number of stages before the drug could be made available to the public.”
Over the next 9-15 months, asthma patients taking part in the study will be given either interferon beta or a placebo by inhalation, when they develop cold or flu symptoms. The results will be used to determine if inhaled interferon beta is a viable treatment for virus-triggered asthma symptoms.
In an earlier Phase I trial, researchers established that the drug was well tolerated in asthma patients and that anti-viral defenses were activated.