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Severe asthma affects between nine and 15 million people worldwide, causing chest tightness and difficulty breathing in addition to frequent asthma attacks that sometimes require hospitalization. It is usually treated with inhaled corticosteroids such as fluticasone and budesonide, but long-term use of these drugs often comes with severe side effects like osteoporosis, increased risk of diabetes, and stunted growth in children.

Fortunately, a recent multinational study titled SHAMAL has demonstrated that a monoclaonls antibody, AstraZeneca’s benralizumab can greatly reduce the degree to which patients with severe asthma must rely on inhaled steroids. Ninety-two percent of patients in the experimental group could safely reduce their doses of inhaled corticosteroids, and over 60% could stop using them completely.

Most cases of severe asthma are severe eosinophilic asthma, wherein high levels of a type of white blood cell known as eosinophils lead to inflammation and tissue damage of the airways. Interleukin-5 (IL-5) has been shown to play a significant role in eosinophilic asthma, and benralizumab is an anti-IL-5 receptor antibody. While further research is needed before broad recommendations can be made, this is certainly promising news for the millions of severe asthma sufferers around the world.

If you’d like to read more about this story, you can check out this article from SciTechDaily, or the open-access article on the SHAMAL study findings in the Lancet.