The humidity, mites, microorganisms and the changing climate of our country are not the only reason that asthma attacks are so common in Costa Rica: genetic predisposition plays a vital role.
After 11 years of study of the genetics of 2,500 people, specialists in pulmonology at Children’s Hospital identified the genes determining the aggressiveness and frequency of seizures.
One of them is the SERPINE2 gene, which is also associated with lung disease.
Others of these genes, located on chromosome 20, is related to the way of processing the immunoglobulin E antibody (causing allergy).
Finally there is a gene on chromosome 5, which regulates smooth muscle contractility (the way in which a muscle contracts present in blood vessels, skin and internal organs).
“These data show us that genetic variants are associated with the frequency and aggressiveness of asthma and can help us to better treat the disease in the future,” said Lydiana Avila, one of the researchers.
Studies of asthma did not begin with the genetics. In 1989 began with an epidemiological investigation that sought to know how many cases of asthma were in the country, and which population groups.
At that time Costa Rica entered the ISAAC (International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood, for its acronym in English) of the 105 countries participating. In 2001, ISAAC made the experience that we take into account for genetic investigations.
The research took into account 2,500 people: 833 members of eight families in which there are several cases of asthma and 1,200 asthmatic children with both parents.
In this way was, as it was observed that genes play in asthma attacks.
The study not only analyzed the genes. Also showed that vitamin D insufficiency is associated with frequent and severe crises of asthma.
This report, conducted with 616 asthmatic children indicated that 28% of those with severe attacks and hospitalizations for the respiratory disease were deficient in vitamin D.
“There are many theories of why vitamin D may be associated with respiratory problems. A indicates that this vitamin is very important in the immune and can regulate some factors that expose more people, “said Manuel Soto, head of Pulmonology, Children’s Hospital and coordinator of the study.
The data provided in these reports on genetics and vitamin D studies have been replicated in other countries.
“For the first time we demonstrate for Asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) SERPINE2 share the gene, and this helped them to others to begin their own analysis. There is still much research, but it is good to know that what we do is good for others, “said Avila.