Asthma attacks cause nearly 100,000 hospital admissions annually. Most asthma deaths are preventable. We urgently need to find more effective ways to prevent asthma attacks.
We have shown that taking vitamin D supplements boosts the immune system to prevent colds and other viral chest infections. These viral infections are the commonest trigger for asthma attacks. We also showed that taking vitamin D supplements cuts the risk of asthma attacks and hospital admissions. Since many people forget to take supplements, a more attractive approach would be to take a big ‘rescue’ dose of vitamin D at the first sign of a cold to prevent it developing and so prevent an asthma attack.
We will test the feasibility of this new approach by recruiting 50 adults with vitamin D insufficiency or deficiency (serum total 25(OH)D <75 nmol/L) with doctor-diagnosed asthma, currently taking regular inhaled corticosteroid therapy and asking them at the first sign of a cold to take either booster vitamin D or a dummy tablet. They will record over the following fortnight their asthma symptoms, their cold symptoms, their ‘peak flow’, and whether they had to start steroid tablets for an asthma attack.
This project will increase the understanding of the disease by examining how early intervention with vitamin D modifies the immunological process of acute viral infection and the development of asthma attacks. This has the potential to open up other immune-based therapies to prevent asthma attacks.
I have previously completed my B.S. in Biology at Kansas State University in the USA, followed by an MSc in Reproductive and Developmental Biology at Imperial College London. I have an interested in applied research and translational medicine.