31/01/2012 13:40 GMT | Updated 01/04/2012 10:12 BST

Could A 'Dust-Mite' Asthma Pill Spell The End Of Inhalers?

A melt-in-the-mouth tablet made from a protein found in house dust mite droppings could revolutionise the treatment of asthma.

Dust mites are tiny creatures, which live in the household dust found in carpets, bedding and soft furnishings and are one of the leading causes of asthma.

Their droppings contain proteins that cause the immune system to release a chemical called histamine, when they are inhaled or touched by someone who is allergic to them; it is this release of histamine that triggers asthma attacks.

The breakthrough pill, developed by Danish firm ALK Abello, works as an immune-therapy treatment.

By regularly exposing the immune system to tiny amounts of the proteins, it no longer interprets them as a threat and therefore does not trigger the asthma-inducing histamine rush.

Early trials of the pill have shown promising results. Patients who took the tablet every day were able to substantially reduce their use of inhaled steroids.

Leanne Metcalf, Assistant Director of Research at Asthma UK, says of the treatment: �Dust is a huge issue for people with asthma; 90% of them tell us that dust triggers their symptoms so this research is really encouraging.

�We know that some people find inhalers difficult to use and also that some asthma medicines can have side effects if taken in high doses or over a long period of time, so we look forward to the day that this research can be translated into a viable alternative treatment for allergic asthma.�

She adds: �If successful, it may help many of the 5.4million people with asthma in the UK to manage their allergic asthma symptoms and live less restricted lives.�

Asthma UK recommends the following measures to help reduce the symptoms for those whose asthma is triggered by dust mites:

  • Use complete barrier covering systems on your mattress, duvet and pillow.
  • Remove all carpets and replace with hard flooring.
  • Vacuum all areas frequently. Use a vacuum cleaner that has good suction and a filtered exhaust that does not scatter dust. Damp dust all surfaces or use an attachment on your vacuum cleaner.
  • Ask someone else to vacuum while you stay out of the room.
  • Remove all soft toys from beds. Put them into a bag in the freezer for a minimum of six hours every one to two weeks to kill house-dust mites.
  • Hot wash (at 60 degrees C) sheets, duvet covers and pillowcases once a week. Although some people are allergic to feathers, there is no conclusive evidence to show that synthetic, 'hypo-allergenic' pillows are any better.
  • Clean your soft furnishings with anti-house-dust mite chemicals.
  • Use a dehumidifier to dry the air, as this makes it more difficult for the house-dust mites to survive.