RESEARCHERS are investigating whether treating children with asthma according to their genes can improve their quality of life.

People behind the study at Brighton and Sussex Medical School hope their findings can reduce hospitalisations, missed school days and other problems caused by the disease.

Previous research has shown 100,000 young people are routinely prescribed an asthma controller medication called salmeterol, which can offer little benefit to some of them.

The medical school, together with three universities, has been working with GPs to develop the Personalised Medicine for Asthma Control (Pact) study.

People aged between 12 and 18 are being asked to join the study to see whether they respond better to a personalised approach to treatment than to the current standard methods.

Medical school chairman of paediatrics, Professor Somnath Mukhopadhyay said: “Our research has previously found around 15 per cent of children and young adults have a particular gene variation that is linked to poor asthma control with this treatment.

“That’s why we are investigating whether young people’s genetic make-up should be taken into account when deciding whether to give them the routinely-used salmeterol, or an alternative medication called montelukast.”

Professor Mukhopadhyay said not receiving effective treatment for asthma results in more school absences and more emergency visits to the GP or hospital.

Long term, this poor asthma control could have an impact on their education and future job prospects.

All participants will be asked to provide a saliva sample in order to find out their genetic status.

Up to half will be prescribed an asthma add-controller medication according to their gene test results and the others will be given standard treatment without knowledge of their gene test, as is currently the case.

One of the first participants to sign up was Molly Lynch, from Chichester.

Molly was 11 when she was diagnosed with asthma following a bout of pneumonia two years ago.

Having previously suffered no respiratory problems she now needed an inhaler to control her asthma, experienced wheezing and feelings of being tight-chested.

As a result of the personalised treatment she received, Molly’s asthma improved significantly and all her symptoms have reduced.

Participants will report from home online by completing questionnaires about their quality of life at three, six, nine and 12-months after commencing the study.

At the end of the study, all participants and their GPs will be given the results of their gene test and a summary of the study results.

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