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Dust mites & Asthma

Researchers in America have discovered why house-dust mites are a major cause of asthma symptoms.

Dr Christopher Karp and colleagues at the Division of Molecular Immunology, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Centre, found that house-dust mites trick the immune system into believing that it is facing a bacterial infection. This causes the immune system to mount a strong allergic response to the mites, which can in turn lead to an asthma attack.

90% of people with asthma say that they are sensitive to the droppings of house-dust mites - tiny creatures that live in the dust that builds in carpets, bedding, soft furnishings and soft toys around the house.

Dr Elaine Vickers, Research Relations Manager at Asthma UK commented: ‘Over the years, scientists have discovered the precise identity of many asthma-triggering molecules (known as allergens) in substances such as pollen, dust, mould and animal dander. However, until now, they haven’t known why the human body should respond to these allergens in such a destructive way.

‘Dr Karp’s discovery of the mechanism through which the dust mite allergen, Der p 2, triggers asthma symptoms is an important step forward. A similar mechanism could well be behind the effects of other allergens, and this new understanding of how allergens affect the body should help scientists create new asthma treatments.’