Allergy/asthma and cystic fibrosis (CF) focus of awareness in May

New research to help Canadians breathe easier - experts available to comment

This press release is also available in French.

OTTAWA – New research initiatives announced just in time for both Allergy/Asthma and Cystic Fibrosis (CF) Awareness Months will focus on developing a better understanding of the ways in which people respond to exposure to infectious agents in the lungs.

Understanding the role of the immune system in lung disease is the focus of new research projects funded through a $4.5 million partnership between the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Institutes of Infection and Immunity and Cardiovascular and Respiratory Health, AllerGen, a Network of Centres of Excellence based at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CCFF). CIHR funding for this initiative is part of a larger package recently announced by the Minister of Health. These projects will be conducted at a number of Canadian universities and associated hospitals, and will bring together leading experts from a range of scientific disciplines to network on key research questions in this area.

The mucous membranes of the respiratory tract represent a major site of exposure of humans to allergens and infectious agents, yet much of our knowledge of the immune response comes from studying generalized infections and infections at non-mucosal sites. The lung represents a particularly important and understudied site of this interaction between infectious agent and its host.

Statistics from the World Health Organization reported 4.4 million deaths throughout the world in 2003 resulting from acute bacterial and viral lower respiratory tract infections. While many people suffering from lung infection do not die, the lives of millions of Canadians are affected every year, with major impacts on health care system costs and loss of productivity. A recent study has suggested that uncontrolled asthma cases in adults and children in Canada alone generate medical and other costs of over $170 million annually. Cystic fibrosis, which affects primarily the lungs and the digestive system, is the most common, fatal genetic disease affecting young Canadians and most CF deaths are due to lung disease.

This new research will have implications for understanding the immune response in the lung as it pertains to diseases caused by pneumonia, emerging infectious agents like avian influenza or the SARS virus, tuberculosis and multi-drug-resistant organisms, all of which can cause dramatic changes in the lung's protective immune response. These health challenges have high potential for serious harm, especially in children, the elderly or individuals with a weakened immune system. Additional complications may arise due to multiple infections or underlying conditions such as allergy, asthma and cystic fibrosis. And, although the immune response in the lung plays a key role in protecting individuals from infectious agents, in many cases this response itself has adverse effects.


Interviews available with:

  • Dr. Bhagirath Singh, Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Infection and Immunity at the University of Western Ontario (London, Ontario).
  • Dr. Dean Befus, AllerGen Theme III Leader/Researcher, Professor, Astra-Zeneca Chair in Asthma Research, Division of Pulmonary Medicine, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Alberta.
  • Cathleen Morrison, Chief Executive Officer at the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
  • Dr. Peter Liu, Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health at the University of Toronto.

For more information or to schedule interviews, please contact: Jasmine Sharma, CIHR Media Relations, (613) 941-4563 [email protected]

Brad Hussey, Communications Manager, AllerGen NCE Inc., (905) 525-9140 ext. 26641 [email protected]

Jennifer Caldwell, Media Relations Officer, Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, 1-800-378-2233 ext. 290 [email protected]

About the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR):
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is the Government of Canada's agency for health research. CIHR's mission is to create new scientific knowledge and to catalyze its translation into improved health, more effective health services and products, and a strengthened Canadian health care system. Composed of 13 Institutes, CIHR provides leadership and support to close to 10,000 health researchers and trainees across Canada.

About the CIHR Institute of Infection and Immunity:
CIHR's Institute of Infection and Immunity seeks to establish national leadership, priorities and programs that promote innovative research to reduce the global burden of infection and immune-based disease and improve quality of life.

About the CIHR Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health:
CIHR's Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health supports research into causes, mechanisms, prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment, support systems, and palliation for a wide range of conditions associated with the heart, lung, brain (stroke), blood, blood vessels, critical care and sleep.

About AllerGen:
AllerGen supports asthma and allergy research with the potential to significantly improve the health of Canadians and generate economic benefits. The Network's research is undertaken by interdisciplinary teams in partnership with industry, not-for-profit, public policy and healthcare organizations. AllerGen is a member of the Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) program, a joint initiative of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and Industry

About the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CCFF):
Cystic fibrosis is a multi-organ disease, affecting primarily the lungs and the digestive system. The CCFF is a Canada-wide health charity, with more than 50 volunteer chapters, that funds CF research and care. In 2006, the CCFF will fund more than 45 research projects, which are exploring all aspects of the CF puzzle. The CCFF is a world leader in the fight against CF: the gene responsible for CF was identified in 1989 by a Canadian-led team of CCFF-funded researchers.

Ce document est également disponible en français.

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Apr 2016
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