Antifungal treatment helps some asthma patients

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People with severe asthma who are allergic to fungal organisms benefit substantially from treatment with the anti-fungal drug itraconazole, new research shows.

To check out this strategy, a trial was conducted in the UK involving patients who needed high doses of steroids to control their asthma and who were sensitive to at least one of seven common types of fungi. Dr. David W. Denning at the University Hospital of South Manchester and colleagues report the results in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Ultimately, the analysis included 18 patients assigned to itraconazole and 23 assigned to an inactive placebo pill.

After 32 weeks, the score on a standard asthma-related quality-of-life questionnaire showed a significantly greater improvement in the itraconazole group than the placebo group.

However, the scores reverted to their baseline levels following completion of the trial, indicating that “continuing antifungal therapy beyond 8 months is important for maintaining quality of life in these patients,” the investigators say.

Denning’s group concludes, “The magnitude of the antifungal effect on symptoms of asthma seen in this study is promising.”

SOURCE: American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, January 1, 2009.

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