A vaccine against asthma could be a reality within ten years, a leading specialist predicted this week.
The vaccine would be the conclusion of a fertile area of research showing that people are less likely to develop asthma, and allergic disease in general, if they were exposed to certain common infections early in life.
If scientists can work out which infections these are they should be able to devise a vaccine that will mimic them so that children can acquire protection against asthma without actually having the infection. At the moment scientists do not even know whether the relevant infection is bacterial or viral, let alone the precise age at which infection could confer protection.
Asthma is a disease of the airways which can kill and is increasing in incidence worldwide, baffling doctors who are convinced that drug treatment has been improving during this time.
There is growing agreement, that the culprit may be too clean a lifestyle, which insulates babies from exposure to bugs and viruses that could stimulate immune responses that protect them.