Exploring the role of nerves in asthma; insights from the study of cough
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Cough in asthma predicts disease severity, prognosis, and is a common and troublesome symptom. Cough is the archetypal airway neuronal reflex, yet little is understood about the underlying neuronal mechanisms. It is generally assumed that symptoms arise because of airway hyper-responsiveness and/or airway inflammation, but despite using inhaled corticosteroids and bronchodilators targeting these pathologies, a large proportion of patients have persistent coughing. This review focuses on the prevalence and impact of cough in asthma and explores data from pre-clinical and clinical studies which have explored neuronal mechanisms of cough and asthma. We present evidence to suggest patients with asthma have evidence of neuronal dysfunction, which is further heightened and exaggerated by both bronchoconstriction and airway eosinophilia. Identifying patients with excessive coughing with asthma may represent a neuro-phenotype and hence developing treatment for this symptom is important for reducing the burden of disease on patients' lives and currently represents a major unmet clinical need.
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