A Dust Mite Pill May Help Relieve Asthma Symptoms, Study Finds

Allergies to dust mites can exacerbate asthma.

ByABC News
April 26, 2016, 4:00 PM
A dust mite is seen under a microscope in an undated stock photo.
A dust mite is seen under a microscope in an undated stock photo.
National Geographic/Getty Images

— -- Allergies may seem like a seasonal annoyance, but for some people, they can be a year-round danger. People with severe asthma can face dangerous reactions if their allergy symptoms induce an asthma attack.

A new study finds there might be a way to help at least a few of these people relieve some of their symptoms through a pill made of dust mites. Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study looked at 834 people in Europe who have house dust mite-related asthma that is not easily controlled with available medications.

Researchers from University of Rostock in Germany, had some patients take a daily pill containing extract from two species of dust mites and others take a placebo. The medication is designed to expose the immune system to a safe dose of the allergen so that the immune system does not react as intensely when a person encounters the allergen again.

Study authors pointed out that up to 50 percent of people with asthma are sensitive to house dust mites and exposure to these allergens is associated with sever asthmatic reactions.

Of the 693 people who completed the study, researchers found that that those who took the pill containing dust mites were at reduced risk of moderate or severe asthma reactions compared to those on a placebo.

The study's authors noted that “further studies are needed to assess long-term efficacy and safety.”

Dr. Dean Mitchell, an allergist and associate professor at the Tour College of Osteopathic Medicine -- who is not associated with the study -- said the study was part of a growing body of research into immunotherapy that was "exciting." Mitchell said giving patients the option to avoid monthly or daily shots will be extremely helpful, and allow them to not disrupt their life to get treatment.

"It’s the new form of treatment in contrast to the shots," said Mitchell. "It’s time for center stage of this kind treatment."

He also said the chance of a severe allergic reaction called anaplyaxic reaction is less with these pills.

"Dust mite allergy is a big cause for pediatric and adult asthma, especially young kids are very exposed because they’re indoors so much," said Mitchell. "These are really groundbreaking studies to reverse [an] underlying allergy," that can induce an asthma attack.

Dr. Mitchell Grayson, an allergist and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the Medical College of Wisconsin, also not associated with the study, said he wanted to know if the findings could be mimicked in the U.S., where more people are allergic to multiple allergens than in Europe where more people are allergic to just one allergen. He said it's unclear if this kind of medication could work if people still had allergy reaction to other allergens.

"Our patients tend to be poly-sensitized, they’re allergic with a lots of things…you’re not going to take 12 different tablets," to address multiple allergies, said Grayson.