By Kate Rauch,
As asthma rates continue to rise in the U.S. — proportionally affecting more children than adults — experts at UC San Francisco and across the nation continue to search for the best medicines for pediatric patients.
Nearly 10 percent of American children under the age of 17 were diagnosed with the condition between 2008 and 2010. In many cases, the condition requires emergency care.
To hone effective treatments, two related studies that include researchers from UCSF are underway to closely examine the effectiveness of pediatric asthma medicines. The studies are called APRIL, for Azithromycin for Preventing the development of upper Respiratory tract Illness into Lower respiratory tract symptoms, and OCELOT for Oral Corticosteroids for treating Episodes of significant LOwer respiratory Tract symptoms in children.
“We have many medications and therapies for asthma, but we need to better understand which medications are first-line for specific situations and for specific kids,” said Michael D. Cabana, MD, MPH, a professor of pediatrics in the UCSF School of Medicine who is leading UCSF’s efforts for the multi-site research.
The dovetailed studies, which follow 600 preschool-aged children with recurring wheezing, are investigating the antibiotic azithromycin to see if it can prevent asthma attacks and reduce the need for emergency care, essentially limiting the condition’s severity.
Prior research has shown that this class of antibiotics can reduce inflammation and is potentially useful for treating early asthma in adults. However, it is not yet known if these medications are effective in children.
Researchers are also looking into systematic corticosteroids to better understand how much of a difference they make after an asthma attack has begun. The steroid is known to stop attacks, but affects the entire body and can be associated with side effects for some children.
The UCSF research team, which is working in partnership with Children’s Hospital and Research Center Oakland, is being assisted by the Clinical Research Services (CRS) program of UCSF’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI). In particular, the CRS Pediatric Clinical Research Center, one of eight Bay Area clinical sites managed by CTSI, is providing hospital space for patient exams and assessments as well as helping with study coordination.