A treatment used to tackle fungal infections is effective in treating the symptoms of severe asthma, research has shown.
Up to 150,000 people suffering severe asthma could benefit from taking antifungal medication already available from chemists, according to new research.
Scientists at the University of Manchester found that pills used to treat everyday fungal infections greatly improved symptoms of asthma in those patients that had an allergic reaction to one or more fungi.
The study, carried out at four hospitals in England, compared the oral antifungal drug itraconazole with a placebo over eight months and found nearly 60% of patients taking the drug showed significant improvement in their symptoms, including a runny nose, sneezing and hayfever-like complaints.
Professor David Denning, based at the University Hospital of South Manchester, said, "Only patients with a positive skin or blood test for fungal allergy were included in the study.
"Severe asthma affects between five and 10% of adult asthmatics and probably 25% to 50% of these patients showed allergy to one or more fungi.
"Since about 60% of those treated benefited from the treatment, we believe that antifungal therapy may be helpful in as many as 150,000 adults with asthma in the UK."