TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) – Researchers at the University of Arizona Health Sciences are working to prevent wheezing and asthma in preschoolers by looking at the effects of azithromycin therapy.
The national study will focus on preschoolers between the ages of 2-5 who are diagnosed with severe wheezing episodes at hospital emergency departments.
According to UA Health Sciences, more than 2.2 million children experience wheezing episodes severe enough to require emergency hospital visits every year in the United States. Around 15% of these children require hospitalization.
Kurt Denninghoff, MD, professor and associate head of research, said researchers already know bacteria and viruses are both associated with the risk of wheezing episodes and asthma in preschoolers, and therefore treatment is really promising. He said the team will be looking at whether the drug is effective because it treats inflammation, or because it eliminates bacteria causing wheezing.
No matter the results, Denninghoff said the study will forever change the treatment of asthma.
“Today we have a group of medications that are really useful in children who have moderate to severe asthma and those medications haven’t really changed in 15 to 20 years,” Denninghoff said. “If we find out Azithromycin works for this, it’ll be part of the toolset that a doctor has to take care of children with asthma. So, it’s a really really big deal.”
Researchers are using a $6.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to focus on three pathogenic bacteria found most frequently in the throats of children who wheeze. The team will also analyze participants by racial and ethnic subgroups to identify areas for further investigation.
The goal is to enroll 1,500 children between the ages of 18 months and 5 years.
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