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Approved research

Determinants and environmental correlates of asthma attacks in UK Biobank

Principal Investigator: Dr Elaine Fuertes
Approved Research ID: 54874
Approval date: April 29th 2020

Lay summary

Asthma is the most common chronic respiratory disease worldwide. How often asthma attacks happen, as well as how severe they are, is influenced by a person's sex, age, if they smoke, whether they have other allergic diseases such as hayfever and eczema, as well as many other factors. Some people suffer asthma attacks when they breathe in allergens (small particles capable of causing allergic reactions, such as pollens and moulds), and when traffic pollution is high. If exposed to both, their asthma may become very severe as breathing in traffic pollution can make the lungs especially sensitive. Further, plants growing in high traffic areas appear to release more allergen than plants growing away from traffic. This 3-year project will identify determinants that influence the frequency and severity of asthma attacks and the occurrence of other allergic diseases, what makes people more vulnerable to outdoor allergens and whether exposure to traffic pollution makes it worse. We will combine health data from participants of the UK Biobank project with information on daily levels of pollution and allergens in the air that are available across the UK for several years. These environmental data have been developed using statistical models by various research groups in London and abroad. We will also explore new and more informative methods of measuring allergen levels in the air. The information generated from this project will be useful for government and public health policy makers (support for lowering air pollution, inform how health care utilization should be planned, improve monitoring of allergens in the air), clinicians (improve asthma management and risk factors), as well as patients themselves (understanding risks and how to reduce them). Given that future urbanisation and climate change will lead to important changes in our lifestyles, affect how plants grow and likely lead to higher levels of air pollutants in our cities, it is important that we understand these relationships so that the people in the UK get the right information to protect themselves from asthma attacks.