Cincinnati Children’s Zeroes in on Inner City Asthma

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center has joined a national research effort to shed new light on the growing problem of asthma in our inner cities.
Cincinnati Children’s will receive about $2.8 million over four years in to participate in the Inner City Asthma Consortium. ICAC was formed in 2002 by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to carry out long-range efforts to reduce asthma severity, to prevent asthma among inner-city children, and to identify asthma-triggering factors that may be unique to life in dense urban environments. The consortium has grown to 11 sites, now including Cincinnati Children’s.

Being part of a national consortium will allow Cincinnati Children’s to participate in the large-scale clinical studies needed to develop better ways to diagnose, treat and manage the disease.

“It’s a huge step for Cincinnati Children’s to be involved in a network like this. We really have an opportunity to impact the way we manage asthma on a national scale,” says Gurjit Khurana Hershey, MD, PhD, director of the Division of Asthma Research and principal investigator for ICAC here. Carolyn Kercsmar, MD, director of the Asthma Center, Division of Pulmonary Medicine is a co-investigator for the study.

“Because of the multicenter nature of the research, the studies are not specific to one location,” Hershey says. “As such, the findings are more generalizable and can impact practices.”

The consortium is pursuing several lines of research. These include comparing different treatment regimens, searching for biomarkers to predict asthma severity and detailing the environmental factors that play key roles in inner-city asthma.

“Part of this is about going into homes and doing very extensive analysis of the microbiology of the home environment and how it may be different from someone who doesn’t live in the inner city,” Hershey says. “Some of these allergens are already known. But there may be other microbes in the inner city environment that we are not aware of.”

Cincinnati Children’s was invited to join the consortium in part because of its recent investment in asthma research, Hershey says. The medical center’s new electronic medical records system was another factor. The new system includes tools that make it much easier for investigators to find eligible patients for research studies.

Asthma affects about 150 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. In the U.S., about 12 percent of children have asthma, with two-thirds of those experiencing at least one asthma attack in the past year.

The human toll of asthma is significant. The condition results in about 2 million emergency hospital visits a year and causes about 5,000 deaths a year. That’s nearly 13 deaths a day.

Cincinnati Children’s serves about 7,000 asthmatic children each year. That includes more than 3,000 emergency visits and 885 patients admitted to the hospital to manage asthma complications.

In response to the growing public health burden posed by asthma, Cincinnati Children’s has expanded its commitment to treatment and research. A key step in that effort was establishing its new Division of Asthma Research in 2008.

As trials begin, participating patients will be seen primarily at the medical center’s Burnet and Oak campuses, Hershey says.

About Cincinnati Children's

Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center ranks third in the nation among all Honor Roll hospitals in U.S. News and World Report's 2011 Best Children's Hospitals ranking. It is ranked #1 for gastroenterology and in the top 10 for all pediatric specialties - a distinction shared by only two other pediatric hospitals in the United States. Cincinnati Children's is one of the top two recipients of pediatric research grants from the National Institutes of Health. It is internationally recognized for improving child health and transforming delivery of care through fully integrated, globally recognized research, education and innovation. Additional information can be found at

Contact Information

June 27, 2011
Contact: Jim Feuer