|World Asthma Day
May 5, 2009
Statement of Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Elizabeth G. Nabel, M.D., Director, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and Linda S. Birnbaum, Ph.D., D.A.B.T., A.T.S., Director, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and National Toxicology Program
Today, on World Asthma Day, we at the National Institute of Allergy
and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the National Heart, Lung, and
Blood Institute (NHLBI), and the National Institute of Environmental
Health Sciences (NIEHS), components of the National Institutes
of Health, stand together with the international community to renew
our dedication to understand the causes of asthma and to find better
ways to treat, prevent and manage this disease.
Asthma, a chronic lung disease and significant public health burden, affects
approximately 300 million people worldwide. In the United States, more than
22 million people have asthma, and nearly 7 million are children under age
6. Young children, especially those with allergies, are at particularly high
risk for developing asthma.
Asthma disproportionately affects people living in lower-income, inner-city environments.
In addition, ethnic and racial disparities in asthma burden persist, with the
disease having a significant impact on African-American and Puerto Rican communities
that have a higher prevalence of asthma and more severe disease.
Currently, there is no way to prevent or cure asthma. Existing treatments for
asthma focus on optimizing control of disease symptoms and preventing potentially
life-threatening exacerbations. Despite these efforts, asthma exacerbations
result in about 10 million missed work days and almost 13 million missed school
days each year in the United States. Central to NIAID, NHLBI and NIEHS efforts
in asthma research is the goal of reducing the burden that asthma presents
to all Americans. We at NIH support basic research aimed at understanding the
causes of disease and the factors that contribute to its progression, and conduct
clinical trials to develop improved treatment strategies.
Over the past 40 years, NIAID and NHLBI-supported investigators have conducted
groundbreaking research that has led to an appreciation for the role of allergy
in asthma, the importance of indoor allergens and air pollution, and the importance
of particular immune cells and signaling pathways in asthma and their role
as targets for developing new treatments.
Current NIAID studies focus on the role of the innate (inborn) and adaptive (acquired)
immunity in asthma and allergic diseases. Investigations are under way to determine
the changes in the immune system that lead to the development and worsening
of asthma and how these changes are influenced by infections, pollution, environmental
allergens and genetics. NIAID also supports research programs tailored to children
living in inner-city areas, including a variety of immune system interventions
aimed at reducing asthma exacerbations and improving control of the disease.
A new landmark collaboration led by the NHLBI is developing a large genetics
data resource for asthma researchers — first in the United States and
then internationally to — facilitate identification of genetic targets
for asthma prevention and for treatment and prevention of exacerbations, as
well as to tailor treatment choices to individual genetic profiles. In addition,
results from the NHLBI’s asthma
clinical research networks continue to change practice, including the use of
inhaled corticosteroids in children, the comparative benefits of different
asthma treatments, and the understanding of variations in treatment response.
To accelerate the translation of research discoveries into patient benefits,
the NHLBI supports the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program which
in 2009 launched a four-year National Asthma Control Initiative (NACI). The
NACI is a dynamic national effort to control asthma through expanded partnerships,
an asthma champions program, demonstration projects and a new communications
NIEHS is pleased to join with our sister institutes at NIH as well as partners
across the world as we become more united in our efforts to understand, prevent
and treat respiratory diseases such as asthma. From research, we now know with
great certainty that asthma results from complex interactions between genes
and the environment.
NIEHS research is helping to identify the specific indoor allergens and outdoor
pollutants that can lead to the development or the exacerbation of asthma.
We are accomplishing this through a multi-pronged approach that includes the
support of basic, clinical and translational research. We are especially looking
forward to the expansion of our clinical research effort when we soon open
the doors of our new clinical research unit at NIEHS and work directly with
our patients to reduce the burden of asthma.
NIAID, NHLBI and NIEHS remain committed to working with individuals, families
and healthcare providers to improve the quality of life for people with asthma
around the world. We commend the NIH-supported investigators and their research
teams who have made and continue to make significant progress in the field
of asthma research, working actively to address this significant public health
concern. We also take this opportunity to express our gratitude to the individuals
and families who have participated in NIH-sponsored asthma research studies.
Without their active involvement in research, many of these advances would
not have been made.
The NIEHS supports research to understand the effects of the environment on human
health and is part of NIH. For more information on environmental health topics,
visit our website at http://www.niehs.nih.gov.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) plans, conducts, and supports
research related to the causes, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart,
blood vessel, lung, and blood diseases; and sleep disorders. The Institute
also administers national health education campaigns on women and heart disease,
asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and other topics. NHLBI press
releases and other materials are available online at www.nhlbi.nih.gov.
NIAID conducts and supports research — at NIH, throughout the United States, and
worldwide — to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and
to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing and treating these illnesses.
News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on
the NIAID Web site at http://www.niaid.nih.gov/.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's
Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and
Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting
and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research,
and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both
common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and
its programs, visit www.nih.gov.
NIAID Asthma Web page: http://www3.niaid.nih.gov/topics/asthma/
NHLBI Diseases and Conditions Index: Asthma
NIEHS Asthma Web page: http://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/conditions/asthma/index.cfm