Mepolizumab prevents some ER visits in people with a severe form of asthma.

People suffering from a severe form of asthma who receive injections of an antibody called mepolizumab can reduce their need for prednisone and avoid its unpleasant side effects, Hamilton researchers say.

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Scientists at McMaster University and Hamilton’s St. Joseph’s Healthcare studied severe asthmatics whose airways are compromised by inflammatory cells called eosinophils. There are an estimated 60,000 to 120,000 Canadians with this condition and the frequent flare-ups of their illness often lead to hospital admissions, at huge costs to the health-care system.

“Mepolizumab works by blocking the production of eosinophils,” the study’s senior author, Dr. Paul O’Byrne, told the CBC. “By preventing their production, we were able to improve asthma and reduce the need for prednisone by close to 90 per cent.

“And for the very first time, we’ve been able to implicate with absolute confidence eosinophils in severe asthma,” he said.

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