Genomic Analysis Reveals Why Asthma Inhalers Fail Minority Children

UCSF Highlights a Need for More Precision Medicine Research in Underserved Populations

University of California San Francisco researchers report that the largest-ever whole-genome sequencing study of drug response in minority children has revealed new clues about why the front-line asthma drug albuterol does not work as well for African-American and Puerto Rican children as it does for European American or Mexican children.

Asthma is the most common chronic childhood disease in the world, according to World Health Organization estimates. Children with asthma experience difficulty breathing as a result of chronic inflammation of the airways, which can be alleviated by inhaling drugs called bronchodilators that make the muscles lining the airways relax, allowing them to reopen. Albuterol is the most commonly prescribed bronchodilator in the world, and often the only medication available to children in lower income settings.

However, albuterol and other inhaler drugs do not work equally well for all children. In the U.S., Puerto Rican and African-American children – who also have the highest prevalence of asthma nationwide – respond least well to these life-saving drugs. This may contribute to the four- to fivefold higher rate of death from asthma among these groups, compared to European Americans and Mexicans.

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