Topic status: We're looking for students to study this topic.
Asthma is a common disease affecting 10% of the Australian population. The causes of asthma are unclear but are known to include a mixture of genetic and environmental factors. Two common respiratory pathogens, Chlamydia pneumoniae and Aspergillus fumigatus, may have a role to play in changing a persons immune system thereby increasing the allergic response of the lung to different everyday triggers. Some asthmatics have been found to have worse symptoms of wheeze after infections with these agents.
In order to establish whether this is coincidental or a true assosciation we plan to test the response of patients' dendritic cells to exposure to Chlamydia and Aspergillus. Dendritic cells are defence cells in the lung and other parts of the body which help decide whether a new exposure is harmful to the person or not. By taking a sample of a persons blood and then exposing it to Chlamydia and Aspergillus we can measure the different types of cytokines and other mediators produced in response by the dendritic cells. This can suggest whether the type of response is one which promotes the development of asthma.