Severe Asthma Symptoms From Car Exhaust May Have a Genetic Link

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People with asthma who have specific genetic profiles experience more severe symptoms when they’re exposed to air pollution caused by motor-vehicle exhaust, say researchers at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and Rice University in Houston. Results of their study, published in Scientific Reports, also suggest that people with asthma who do not have this genetic make-up don’t experience worsening symptoms from air pollution exposure.

The study involved 2,704 participants with asthma from the Environmental Polymorphisms Registry (EPR) in North Carolina. The researchers gathered information about a common type of genetic variation that can affect susceptibility to illness, as well as info on the severity of asthma symptoms and participants’ addresses (noting distance from a major road). They divided participants into three groups: hyper-responders (those highly sensitive to air pollution), hypo-responders (those insensitive to air pollution), and an in-between group.

People classified as hyper-responders who lived closest to high-traffic roads had the most severe asthma symptoms (difficulty breathing, chest pain, cough, wheezing) and those classified as hypo-responders who lived further from busy roads had milder symptoms. Results of this study could lead to more effective treatment based on individual factors. In this case, treatment could involve using home HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters for people with asthma worsened by air pollution.

Sourced from: Scientific Reports