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Health

Less fear of the flu for asthmatics?

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanMay 30, 2011 5:57 AM

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One of the reasons I tend toward a bit of hypochondria is probably the fact that what for others are inconvenient minor ailments often trigger my asthma. So nice to see this, Why Does Flu Trigger Asthma?:

When children with asthma get the flu, they often land in the hospital gasping for air. Researchers at Children's Hospital Boston have found a previously unknown biological pathway explaining why influenza induces asthma attacks. Studies in a mouse model, published online May 29 by the journal Nature Immunology, reveal that influenza activates a newly recognized group of immune cells called natural helper cells -- presenting a completely new set of drug targets for asthma. If activation of these cells, or their asthma-inducing secretions, could be blocked, asthmatic children could be more effectively protected when they get the flu and possibly other viral infections, says senior investigator Dale Umetsu, MD, PhD, of Children's Division of Immunology. Although most asthma is allergic in nature, attacks triggered by viral infection tend to be what put children in the hospital, reflecting the fact that this type of asthma isn't well controlled by existing drugs.

For various reasons I'm moderately skeptical of incremental improvements in life expectancy in developed nations through drugs. But, I do think there are plenty of possibilities when it comes to reducing morbidity, and therefore increasing productivity of a life well lived.

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