After five years of testing, a national study on the use of antibiotics as a potential therapy for chronic asthma attacks is in its final stages.
Approximately 360 patients with moderate to severe asthma, who regularly take preventer medication, have already enrolled for the AMAZES (Asthma and Macrolides: Azithromycin Efficacy and Safety) study - only another 60 will be needed in order to complete the University of Newcastle project.
The study is being conducted at Newcastle's John Hunter Hospital, three sites in Sydney, along with Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. Participants are monitored for 48 weeks while receiving a low-dose antibiotic or a placebo tablet.
Lead investigator Professor Peter Gibson commented on the promising results of a similar study which favoured the use of antibiotics as a treatment.
"We showed in a previous study of 45 people that macrolide antibiotics can reduce inflammation and improve quality of life for people with persistent asthma."
"This larger study will help us determine the effectiveness and safety of this new approach to treating asthma that's unresponsive to steroid medication," Prof Gibson said.
Current asthma medications target the eosinophil cell whereas the antibiotic therapy is designed to reduce inflammation caused by a different cell, called a neutrophil.
Researchers believe the antibiotic will enhance quality of life and decrease the number of exacerbations resulting in hospitalisation or prednisone (corticosteroid) use.
Study participants undergo a breathing test every 12 weeks and receive a phone call every three weeks from respiratory researchers.
Trial coordinator Catherine Delahunty said that there were no definite results of the study as of yet.
"We don't have results at this stage because it is a blinded randomised trial, but it's quite common for people to feel better during the study because they're more diligent in taking their medications and more aware of their asthma trigger," Delahunty said.
AMAZES is the largest asthma research trial in Australia with $2.9 million in funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council.
Therapy-resistant asthma is increasingly recognised as a major unmet need, and the use of antibiotics aligns with guidelines supported by the European Respiratory Society and American Thoracic Society.