Asthma inhaler may fail for child sufferers

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The most widely used asthma inhaler in Britain may fail to prevent attacks in one in 10 children who use them, a study has shown.

About 100,000 children – 13 per cent of those with asthma – carry a gene mutation that means the common "blue" inhaler containing salbutamol (brand name Ventolin) may not protect them. Researchers from the University of Dundee, and Brighton and Sussex Medical School, found that children with the mutation who used their inhaler daily had a 30 per cent increased risk of asthma attacks compared with those who had a normal form of the gene. The findings are published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Experts warned parents and children not to panic and to continue to use their inhaler as prescribed. They said the research needed confirmation by further studies.

Co-author Professor Somnath Mukhopadhyay, of the Brighton and Sussex Medical School, said: "Salbutamol via the blue inhaler is effective reliever treatment in most children, but it is common experience among doctors that a proportion of children do not seem to respond to this medicine as well as others.

"The reason for this appears to be a genetic variant called Arg16. Although this gene does not increase an individual's chance of getting asthma in the first place or make their asthma worse, it does seem to alter how well certain asthma medicines will work."