Scientists studying hayfever and asthma say a one size fits all strategy for treating allergies is not benefiting patients.

Instead, the researchers say that every person’s allergy is different, both in the cause and the body’s response, so the best method would be to move towards more precise, personalised medicine.

Professor Adnan Custovic, Clinical Professor of Paediatric Allergy at Imperial College London, and Professor Stephen Durham, Professor of Allergy and Respiratory Medicine at the Royal Brompton Hospital, presented their research on effectively treating allergies at the recent Imperial College Academic Health Science Centre (AHSC) seminar series.

Understanding asthma

In a packed venue at the Royal Brompton Hospital, Professor Custovic spoke about his work on leading the Study Team for Early Life Asthma Research (STELAR) Consortium project in the video above. This programme of work aims to understand more about the emergence, sequence and development of allergic and asthmatic symptoms in over 15,000 participants in the UK from birth until their thirties.

Asthma is the most common chronic disease of childhood and causes many hospital admissions. The number of children suffering from asthma has increased dramatically over the past 30 years, with over a million children in the UK diagnosed with the disease. Steroid treatments, usually taken using inhalers, are given to prevent asthma attacks, but for many patients, they aren’t completely effective.

Professor Custovic outlined that asthma is not just one single disease but many, each with slightly different causes and symptoms. He explained that this finding could lead to the development of targeted therapies to achieve better outcomes for patients based on their needs or predisposition to the disease.

Immunotherapy for hayfever

Professor Durham presented his findings in the video above on the impact of allergen immunotherapy.  The treatment is able to modify a person’s immune response in allergic diseases such as hayfever to prevent symptoms and induce long-term remission long after stopping the treatment.

Hayfever, or seasonal allergic rhinitis, affects as many as one in four people in the UK, leaving sufferers with bouts of sneezing, runny nose and itchy eyes – all of which can affect work, school and leisure during the summer months when the pollen count soars. Hayfever is usually treated effectively with over the counter medications such as nasal sprays and antihistamine tablets. More severely affected patients can be treated with immunotherapy, which can be given as either monthly injections below the skin or as a daily tablet placed under the tongue.

Professor Durham explained that both routes are highly effective, and that recent research suggests that three years of treatment is necessary for long-term benefits. He also outlined that understanding the mechanism of allergen immunotherapy has implications on how other immune system diseases such as diabetes may be treated.

Seminar series

The seminar was the second of a new series at the Royal Brompton Hospital designed to showcase the work of the AHSC, a partnership between Imperial College London and three NHS Trusts. It aims to translate world-leading discovery science into new diagnostics, devices and therapies as quickly as possible, for the benefit of patients and populations worldwide.

The next event will be on ‘New insights into pulmonary arterial hypertension’ and will take place on Friday 8 June at the Royal Brompton Hospital.

This talk will be delivered by Professor Martin Wilkins, Professor of Clinical Pharmacology at Imperial College London, and Dr Stephen Wort, Clinical Lead for Pulmonary Hypertension at the Royal Brompton Hospital.