THE lives of those suffering from severe asthma are being put at risk by insufficient treatment, a leading expert from Southampton has warned.

Professor Peter Howarth, from Southampton General Hospital, believes that a lack of understanding of the condition is preventing medical breakthroughs that could slash asthma fatalities.

So he and his team in the city have embarked on a groundbreaking clinical project that aims to revolutionise the treatment of severe asthmatics worldwide for which current treatments are not able to control effectively.

His warning comes as it was revealed that around ten per cent of the 5.4m people n the UK with asthma have the most severe form, which leaves them unable to control their symptoms, resulting in frequent attacks despite taking multiple high-strength medicines.

Prof Howarth said: “While the majority of asthmatics are able to control their symptoms with medication, around one in ten have life-threatening symptoms and attacks for which current treatment is simply not sufficient.

“Severe attacks are a terrifying experience, but no-one has enough knowledge of the specifics of the condition to enable the development of targeted treatments, so we end up with 12,000 emergency admissions in Europe every year which, in some cases, prove fatal.”

So in a bid to change that, the professor and his team in the NIHR Southampton Respiratory Biomedical Research Unit, are taking part in a Europe-wide study that is designed to find clearer ways of diagnosing the condition by comparing the lung health of moderate and severe sufferers.

But to help make the difference the team needs to recruit 85 severe and 25 mild to moderate asthmatics, who will undergo a range of tests which will help identify the type of severe asthma and give specific information about each individual.

Prof Howarth added: “This study gives us a chance, for the first time, to go outside of the comfort zone of developing better solutions for the majority and really specialise for a group which, until now, has ultimately been isolated.”

Lisa Aitken, the project’s lead research nurse, added: “This is an extremely exciting study which will give participants from Southampton a chance to play a part in something that is likely to have major implications in the treatment of asthma worldwide.”

Anyone interested in finding out more about the study can contact the research team on 023 8079 8427 or 023 8079 4597.