NIH News Advisory
National Institute of
Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Wednesday, February 27, 2002
Contact: Jeff Minerd
Office of Communications
and Public Liaison, NIAID
(301) 402-1663

To Editors, Reporters and Producers
Asthma Researchers Present New Results, New Perspectives on the Disease
AAAAI Annual Meeting, March 1-6, New York City

Preliminary results of a long-term study show two new ways to reduce asthma severity in inner-city children. Researchers will present these results at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI), which takes place at the Hilton New York hotel on March 1-6.

The six-year investigation is part of the ongoing efforts of the Inner-City Asthma Study, a program supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). Established in 1991, the Inner-City Asthma Study has involved 12 centers nationwide and about 3,000 children so far. Its primary aim is to find out why asthma disproportionately affects inner-city children and to test new ways to treat the disease.

Since 1996, the current Inner-City Asthma Study has been investigating two methods to improve the health of inner-city children with asthma. The first method, called a physician feedback intervention, involves periodic reports to the child's doctor about the status of the child's asthma. These reports, generated from bi-monthly phone interviews with parents, recommend changes in the child's treatment regimen if warranted. The second method, called an environmental intervention, involves identifying and removing asthma triggers such as cigarette smoke or cockroaches from the child's home.

Initial data suggest these interventions effectively reduce emergency room visits and asthma symptoms for inner-city children. Researchers Wayne J. Morgan, M.D., of the University of Arizona, and Herman E. Mitchell, Ph.D., of Rho Inc., in Chapel Hill, N.C., will present the results at a symposium on Monday, March 4 at 12:15 p.m. Journalists are welcome to attend.

A New Perspective on Asthma
Another symposium at the AAAAI meeting will explore the idea that asthma consists of several subtypes. These include allergic asthma, exercise-induced asthma, asthma caused by bacterial and fungal infections, asthma in the elderly, and more. Each behaves somewhat differently, is triggered differently, and may respond to different treatments or interventions.

"Asthma is usually considered a single disease, but it may be more helpful to doctors and more productive for researchers to think of asthma as many related diseases," says Ken Adams, Ph.D., chief of NIAID's asthma and inflammation section. Dr. Adams has brought together twelve specialists in various sub-types of asthma. They will share their clinical experiences and research results on Friday, March 1 at 8:45 a.m.

Current asthma treatments such as inhaled corticosteroids and beta agonists are non-specific: They treat only the general effect of asthma — an inflamed or constricted airway — and not any of the underlying causes. Dr. Adams hopes this symposium might spur interest in research that would lead to more specific therapies that target the various causes of asthma. In addition, the presentations should help clinicians understand the subtypes of the disease so that they can better diagnose and manage a patient's asthma.

NIAID is a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIAID supports basic and applied research to prevent, diagnose, and treat infectious and immune-mediated illnesses, including HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis, malaria, autoimmune disorders, asthma and allergies.

Press releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID Web site at

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.