Asthma is one of the commonest long-term conditions of childhood and adulthood

  • Asthma affects approximately 1 in 11 children in the UK, but we do not have a cure
  • Many children who get asthma start to have symptoms (wheezing) before they are old enough to go to school, but we cannot predict which young children who wheeze will develop asthma and who will get better
  • The children who get asthma have early lung damage which never gets any better however long they live
  • We want to find out how to predict which pre-school children will get asthma and to find out how we can stop them from getting the condition
  • We will do this by looking at how the cells in the breathing tubes of the lungs work in pre-school children with and without the symptoms of asthma (wheezing)
  • This type of study, involving 8 centres nationally in the UK, has never been done before

Asthma is one of the commonest long-term conditions of childhood and adulthood. Many children with asthma already have problems with episodes of wheezing by the time they are two or three years old. It is important for doctors to understand how lungs develop in the first few years of life, not least because in those crucial years, any lung damage is permanent. At the moment we do not understand this nor why some children start to wheeze or develop asthma. Even though we know at least a third of babies will develop wheeze before they start school.
The Breathing Together Study is exploring, in a completely new way, why some children develop wheezing and breathlessness during their preschool years, and why some of those grow out of their symptoms, while others go on to develop asthma.

We think that problems with the way the lining of the breathing tubes inside the lung (the airways) work and with the developing immune system are vitally important to the development of asthma.

The innovative approach being used in this study is to look at the lining of the breathing tubes in healthy newborn babies; studying their lung defences and natural infection resistance, and following up these babies for 3 years.

By studying the lining of the breathing tubes and the immune system at birth we hope to discover the key determinants of asthma. Ultimately, we think this will lead to an exciting advance towards preventing asthma.

Imperial College London, in collaboration with 6 UK NHS hospital trusts and 4 other universities has obtained a grant from the Wellcome Trust to undertake this project. This is called the Breathing Together Birth cohort study and it has now been launched. We really hope you are able to join us in this exciting project.