Testing children with asthma for a specific gene could prevent their condition worsening, according to UK researchers.
The arginine-16 genotype of the beta-2 receptor is carried by one in seven asthma patients – around 150,000 people.
The presence of the genotype makes patients less likely to respond to treatment with the long acting beta-receptor stimulant salmeterol.
Testing children for the genotype would identify those who might react poorly to salmeterol and mean their asthma control may improve with the use of alternative medicines, according to researchers from the University of Dundee and Brighton and Sussex Medical School.
They identified 62 children with the genotype using a DNA test. While continuing with their usual preventer, the children were assigned to two add-on treatment groups for the period of a year – receiving either montelukast or salmeterol.
The study found patients responded better to montelukast. They wheezed and coughed much less, and were less likely to need more “reliever” treatment than salmeterol users.
At the start of the research, 36% of these children tested needed to use their relievers every day.
But, by the end of the study, the number of children needing daily reliever use had halved in the group using montelukast but there was no improvement for those in the salmeterol group.
The researchers described the results as “a step towards personalised and tailored medicine for asthma”.
The study findings are published in the journal Clinical Science.