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American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, Nov. 9-15, 2006

American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology's 64th annual scientific meeting

American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology's 64th Annual Scientific Meeting

The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology held its 64th annual scientific meeting Nov. 9 to 15 in Philadelphia and attracted 4,258 attendees, including 1,800 physicians and 300 allied health professionals from the United States and around the world. The meeting featured groundbreaking research on new allergy vaccines, nasal steroids, and climate change's effect on oak pollen allergies.

"It's been…great," said ACAAI Vice President Jay M. Portnoy, M.D., chief of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., and a meeting organizer. "We've had nothing but rave reviews from attendees, and we've heard a lot of cutting-edge information about the field."

During plenary sessions, for example, research was presented on complementary and alternative medicine, bioterrorism and improving air quality. "We're not just allergists," said Portnoy, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Missouri in Kansas City. "We also take care of asthma, immunology and we're very big on working on the environment and how it affects health. There's a session on how people can improve air quality in their house."

A research team led by Gregory G. Pendell, M.D., of Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, reported that climate change is causing the oak pollen season in the Midwest to start a half-day earlier each year, a finding with implications for allergy patients.

Pendell's team took daily counts of oak pollen trapped on a Kansas City hospital roof between February and November from 1997 to 2007. The researchers found that oak pollen season's mean starting date between 1997 and 2001 was 99 days into the year, versus 91.8 days between 2002 and 2006.

"These results indicate a trend to an earlier oak pollen season in the Midwestern U.S. that should reach statistical significance in the next five years," the authors note.

Todd Mahr, M.D. of the Gundersen Clinic in La Crosse, Wisc., and a clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison, told HealthDay that researchers presented data on new nasal steroids. They also discussed plans for a nasal antihistamine that is already available as an eyedrop. "Many people realized it worked well on your nose. So they're hoping Patanase will come out next year even though it still doesn't have FDA approval."

David Skoner, M.D., of Drexel University College of Medicine in Pittsburgh reported that intranasal corticosteroids may not stunt normal growth in children with allergic rhinitis, as once thought. After comparing measured and expected heights in 19 children with allergic rhinitis treated with the aqueous intranasal corticosteroid triamcinolone acetonide, the researchers found no height differences in children using steroids.

Researchers also presented new data on using immunizations to control allergies. "There are new kinds of allergy shots -- a sublingual [vaccine] whereby instead of getting a shot, you can put the vaccine under your tongue," said Portnoy. "And a new type of vaccine being studied is using DNA to improve its effect. This is all very exciting."

Harb Harfi, M.D., of King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, told his fellow researchers that thyroid disease is common among chronic idiopathic urticaria or angioedema patients, suggesting possible new treatment strategies.

"There is an increased prevalence of thyroid disease and auto-antibodies in patients with chronic idiopathic urticaria or angioedema," the authors report.

Key discussions revolved around the long-running debate about "asthma drugs that are available but have gotten a black box warning from the FDA, such as Serevent (salmeterol) and Foradil (formoterol), according to Mahr. "A large study in Chest this spring showed the use of these drugs could cause death from asthma, but most of us consider them safe if they're combined with other steroids."

Overall, the meeting was productive, Mahr concluded. "This is a good chance to get together with your colleagues, look at what's new in overcoming barriers to asthma control," he said. "Twenty million to 25 million Americans have asthma, so getting control of that is a hot topic."

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