Rationale of the Project PSPB-072/2010 ‘Participation of the immune system and lipid signalling in translating persistent viral infection into asthma’


Asthma is one of the world’s most important chronic conditions; it is also the most common chronic disease in childhood. Large epidemiological studies carried out in Poland estimate prevalence of asthma at 8.6% in children and 5.4% in adults. Relatively higher prevalence was reported for Switzerland, with 7 to 10% of asthma in adult population. While treatment of asthma improved remarkably over the last 50 years, much less progress occurred in pathogenesis of the disease, its origin, mechanisms of development and progression. All these subjects are covered by our project.

The proposed project addresses the topic of one of the most common infections, i.e. rhinoviral infection of the respiratory tract. It goes beyond the state of the art, putting forward a hypothesis based on a preliminary study – that such an infection might become persistent and could modulate the course of asthmatic inflammation. The project offers a model to validate the hypothesis in a longitudinal clinical study. Besides, its main aim of verifying the hypothesis, the clinical study will provide novel observations on the manifestation of asthma, its course and response to therapy as related to the objective presence of viral infection.

The project, foreseen to last for 48 months, gives a rationale to study the mechanisms translating chronic viral infection into clinical presentation. In this respect it concentrates on immunological response and lipid signals evaluation. Assessment of the innate immune response as well as the influence of virus infection on eicosanoid metabolism and integrity of airway epithelium will be studied. Special attention will be given to the adaptive immune-response modulation by rhinoviruses. The project has a strong translational focus aiming at developing novel diagnostic and predictive tests that would be immediately beneficial for patients and might facilitate management of asthma.

The Polish and Swiss partners have established – over the years – close links in collaborative research, which led to publications in international peer-reviewed journals, exchange of young researchers and organisation of international symposia. The work carried out in Cracow, with close collaboration with SIAF, led to the discovery of a functionally important, genetic variant of LTC4 synthase (awarded with the prestigious scientific prize of the “Lancet” magazine). The joint Krakow-Davos initiative prompted into existence the European Network on Aspirin-Sensitive Asthma. There is strong complementarity of the research teams which constitutes the basis for the future success of this project.