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Largest Australian study of asthma

If you are over the age of 18, have been diagnosed with asthma by a doctor and are interested in participating in the study please call 1800 257 179 during business hours or visit

Dr Manuel Ferreira is a QIMR geneticist on a mission to discover the underlying causes of asthma.

He is heading the largest Australian study of asthma genetics – the Australian Asthma Genetics Consortium – which has brought together the top asthma genetics experts from across the country to try to solve the genetic puzzle of asthma.

For 1 in 10 Australians, asthma is part of their everyday life. Every year asthma attacks are responsible for 1 million work days lost, 36,000 hospital admissions and about 400 deaths.

“We know some people are genetically more likely to develop asthma than others. However we know little about how genes cause asthma – but we hope to change that,” said Dr Ferreira from QIMR’s Genetic Epidemiology Laboratory.

Dr Ferreira says new research techniques will allow the consortium to find answers to questions that have puzzled researchers and doctors for years.

“We think that asthma is influenced by numerous genetic changes that have little effect by themselves. However when many of these changes are present in the same person, it may lead to the development of asthma. We now have the technology to search for these tiny genetic changes.”

Researchers will search the DNA of over 5,000 people (with and without asthma) to search for the genes that increase the risk of developing asthma.

Dr Ferreira said the more we learn about these genes, and how they interact with environmental factors, the more we will understand how and why asthma strikes.

“Ultimately we hope this research can help us more accurately identify those at higher risk and develop improved treatments that will allow asthma sufferers to live normal lives.”

The study is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council and involves researchers from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR), The University of Queensland, University of Melbourne, Monash University, University of Western Australia, Woolcock Institute and the Melbourne Royal Children’s Hospital.

The Australian Asthma Genetics Consortium
was established in 2009 precisely to identify the genes that contribute to such genetic susceptibility. Our study differs from other studies previously conducted in Australia in that we apply the latest state-of-the art genotyping technology to the largest cohort of patients collected to date.
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