Research funded by Asthma UK has led to the development of a vaccine treatment that can prevent asthma-like symptoms in mice.

Dr Noble and his team at King's College London have been studying allergic mechanisms in mice and investigating whether it is possible to regulate the immune system's response to potential allergic triggers. Sometimes the immune system initiates the wrong type of response to harmless substances such as dust and pollen, which can result in allergic responses and asthma. It is this overactive response which the vaccine would aim to prevent.

Dr Noble's team is part of the world-renowned MRC-Asthma UK Centre in Allergic Mechanisms of Asthma. They have developed a vaccine which suppresses allergic immune responses by boosting the cells which regulate the body's protective mechanisms. They found that after treating mice with their vaccine they could detect millions of these activated cells in the mice's blood, which then prevented the mice from having an allergic response to an asthma trigger.

In the past, vaccine treatments have failed because they haven't activated sufficient numbers of cells so the protective immune response simply wasn't powerful enough. Alistair Noble and his colleagues have invented CASAC, a booster mixture, which when used as part of the vaccine increases the protective response, meaning it could give long-lasting protection against dangerous allergic responses.

Dr Noble's results showed that mice which had not previously developed asthma-like symptoms could be completely protected against them by the vaccine/booster mix, and when it was given to mice that were already sensitive to an asthma trigger, it could prevent allergic inflammation in the lungs and reduce constriction of airways, although the mice did still exhibit some asthma-like symptoms. The mouse system is not the same as asthma in humans but these results suggest that the vaccine/booster mix might work best in people newly diagnosed with asthma rather than in individuals who have had the condition for many years.

The next steps will be to develop vaccines for human asthma triggers, and to discover more about who is most likely to benefit from these treatments. The individual components of Dr Noble's vaccine/booster treatment have already passed safety-testing in humans, giving confidence that any new vaccines that Dr Noble develops will also be safe.

Dr Alistair Noble says: 'The vaccine/booster mix would aim to give long-term protection against allergic reactions and asthma symptoms, without reducing the immune system's ability to defend the body against infections. Once developed it would work just like conventional vaccinations against diseases such as measles and TB, where one injection would sufficiently boost the immune system to protect the individual over many years.'

Dr Elaine Vickers, Research Relations Manager at Asthma UK says: '90% of people with asthma say that dust triggers their symptoms, meaning that for millions of people simple activities like cleaning the house could result in a trip to A&E. This research is still in its early stages but we are really excited about its potential to give long lasting protection against the symptoms of allergic asthma.'


1. Asthma UK is one of the major funders of asthma research in the UK.

2. In 2006, Asthma UK spent more than the UK Government on research into asthma.

3. Asthma UK is the charity dedicated to improving the health and well-being of the 5.4 million people in the UK whose lives are affected by asthma. For up-to-date news on asthma, information and publications, visit the Asthma UK website

4. For independent and confidential advice on asthma, call the Asthma UK Adviceline, which is staffed by asthma nurse specialists. It is open weekdays from 9am to 5pm on 08457 01 02 03. Or email an asthma nurse at

Asthma UK