Asthma is a long-term, inflammatory disorder which affecting the airways. Allergic asthma is the most common type and is triggered by antibodies produced in response to environmental allergens such as pollen, dust mites, or moulds.
There are currently more than 5.4 million people in the UK being treated for asthma and about 1.1 million of them are children. There were 1,131 deaths from asthma in the UK in 2009 (12 were children aged 14 years or under), which is, on average, 3 people per day.
When a person with asthma comes into contact with something that irritates their airways, the muscles around the walls of the airways tighten so that the airways become narrower and the lining of the airways becomes inflamed and starts to swell.
Sometimes, sticky mucus or phlegm builds up, which can further narrow the airways.
These reactions cause the airways to become narrower and irritated - making it difficult to breath and leading to symptoms of asthma.
This study is exciting because it opens up interesting new avenues of research that could tell us more about the relative role of genes, environment and gender in terms of asthma risk, and enable us use this information to potentially prevent asthma in the future.
– Leanne Metcalf, assistant director of research and practice at Asthma UK
With these groundbreaking findings, we should see a change in the way we assess a child's risk of disease, asking girls for the allergy history of their mother and boys for that of their father.
This work also opens up novel areas for further research in the genetics of allergy as to why this sex dependent effect occurs and, if we can find the reason, we can try to find a way of preventing sex-specific disease.
– Professor Hasan Arshad, Southampton General Hospital