By Peter Russell
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Farah Ahmed, MD
Dec. 5, 2014 -- Children with asthma might one day benefit from a simple urine test that could ensure they receive the right dose of medication to help them better manage their condition.
An Anglo-Polish research team found that a urine test can accurately measure levels of inflammation and find one particular sign that can predict a forthcoming asthma attack.
The study is being presented at The British Thoracic Society Winter Meeting.
The researchers, from Queen Mary University of London and Jagiellonian University Medical School in Krakow, used 73 volunteers ages 7 to 15.
They tested children with asthma on days when they had no symptoms. They counted the number of days when the kids received medical attention or missed school due to asthma symptoms. Urine samples were compared with those of children who didn't have asthma.
Dr. Rossa Brugha, co-author of the report and clinical research fellow at Queen Mary University of London hospital, says in a statement: "The key factor in treating children with asthma is to tailor their medicine accurately, ensuring the right amount of anti-inflammatory medication is being prescribed.
"This simple urine test provides an accurate way to assess chemical markers in the child's urine, which show the level of inflammation caused by the asthma.
"We hope that this test can help indicate the level of steroid medication they actually need. If implemented it will help the child to manage their asthma more effectively and hopefully reduce the number of asthma attacks."
In a statement, Dr. Bernard Higgins, chairman of the British Thoracic Society Executive Committee, says the test could help doctors prescribe tailored treatments for kids with asthma.
'A Promising Step'
Asthma is a condition that affects the airways -- the small tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. When a person with asthma comes into contact with something that irritates their airways (an asthma trigger), the muscles around the walls of the airways tighten and become narrower, and the lining of the airways becomes inflamed and starts to swell, causing breathing trouble and leading to symptoms of asthma.
As of 2010, some 7 million children under 18 in the U.S. were affected by asthma, according to the CDC.
"The development of a simple test that can be used to accurately identify children at risk of an asthma attack and then to get them on the right dose of the right treatment could be transformational in preventing attacks; this research is a promising step in that direction," says Samantha Walker, PhD, in an e-mailed statement. She's the director of research and policy at Asthma UK.
"Parents of children with asthma now need to see more investment in asthma research like this, so that life-changing breakthroughs become a reality."
These findings were presented at a medical conference. They should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.
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