A study conducted on mice has revealed that when their lungs are subjected to bitter tasting substances, their airways open. This suggests that similar treatment in humans could help to combat the effects of asthma.
Dr Stephen Liggett, who led the US study, confirmed that no other medicine currently used to treat asthma was as effective as targeting the lungs with bitter substances. Dr Liggett suggested that quinine or saccharine could be used to treat asthma, though new treatments involving bitter substances are still a long way off. Simply eating bitter foods will not help reduce the symptoms of asthma, as eating them will not directly target the lungs.
Around 5.4 million people suffer from asthma in the UK and one in every five households contains an asthma sufferer. Many of them don't take medication to control their symptoms, so the whisperings of a new treatment could be good news for asthma sufferers.
Leanne Metcalf from Asthma UK commented on the encouraging findings of the study: "With further in-depth research, this approach could potentially pave the way for a new range of asthma treatments based on bitter substances which could either supplement or replace existing asthma treatments but if this were possible, it would be a long way into the future."
When people suffer from an asthma attack, their airways start to close. As the airways become narrower, it can be difficult for an asthma sufferer to breathe. Asthma symptoms are often relieved with the use of an inhaler containing drugs such as salbutamol. An inhaler must be used properly in order for it to be effective.