MADISON — Can vitamin D and a frequently prescribed antibiotic for children help doctors treat asthma more effectively? Researchers at the University of Wisconsin – Madison are currently recruiting participants for two national studies designed to find out.
The first study will investigate whether taking vitamin D in addition to an inhaled steroid—the most effective treatment for asthma available today—will help prevent worsening asthma symptoms and attacks in people with low vitamin D levels. Approximately 30 percent of the population in the U.S. is estimated to have low vitamin D levels.
“Many people still have asthma attacks even though they regularly take their asthma medication,” said Christine Sorkness, professor of pharmacy and medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “We want to determine if vitamin D provides anti-inflammatory benefits that will actually enhance the current standard of care.”
Non-smoking adults 18 and older who have been diagnosed with asthma are eligible for the study. The study will take place at the University of Wisconsin-Madison or Aurora Health Care in Milwaukee.
The second study will investigate whether taking the antibiotic azithromycin can help prevent bad coughing or wheezing during a respiratory illness. Researchers will also study whether taking prednisolone, an oral corticosteroid, will decrease asthma symptoms if bad wheezing develops.
Children one to six years of age who have had a clinically significant wheezing episode in the last 12 months are eligible for the study. The study will take place at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“Many young children have asthma attacks during viral respiratory infections,” said Dr. Theresa Guilbert, assistant professor of pediatrics at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. “This study will help us determine if an antibiotic given to them during respiratory infections can prevent asthma symptoms from progressing.”
Although antibiotics are commonly prescribed to treat bacterial infections, recent research findings have suggested that they may have benefits fighting certain viral infections as well. The study will also evaluate if oral corticosteroids—a commonly prescribed treatment whose benefits have recently been questioned—can truly decrease the severity of symptoms once an asthma attack progresses.
The prevalence of asthma in the United States in the zero-to-four age group has increased dramatically over the past two decades, rising from 369,000 in 1980 to 1,120,000 children in 2004. This age group often has asthma problems that result in increased visits to physician offices, emergency departments, as well as hospitalizations.