(GFR Media)

Fighting the high incidence of asthma in Puerto Rico requires identifying the environmental, genetic and socioeconomic factors that impacting the population most affected by this disease.

A study published in 2016 found that 37 percent of the Puerto Ricans in the United States suffer from this serious respiratory disease. Such a percentage also shows a negative impact on the quality of life of individuals and communities, as well as on productivity.

It is important to understand what triggers this chronic condition, which usually begins at an early age and impacts children more than other groups. Efforts to find a cure are also essential.

In that sense, we consider the research on the causes of asthma in Puerto Rican children, proposed by a group of prestigious doctors, scientists and renowned academics on the island and several states of the United States, is really important.

The "Puerto Rican Infant Metagenomic and Epidemiologic Study of Respiratory Outcomes" is a much-needed initiative given the prevalence of this respiratory disease that affects one in seven children in Puerto Rico. Children from families with an income of less than $15,000 a year have a higher prevalence of asthma.

Progress in identifying the causes of asthma can more assertively guide other scientific research. They are also essential to design public policy on prevention and treatment. The long-term goal must be to contribute to improving public health.

Without scientific solutions, asthma will continue to affect patients’ daily activities while exposing them to the risk of attacks or even death. Besides, its impact on health care systems and family economy will also continue to be very high.

A 2012 study found that asthma mortality rates among Puerto Ricans living in the United States reached 4.4 percent, which is higher than other high-incidence groups such as African Americans and Mexican Americans. The study proposed by researchers in Puerto Rico should shed light on these disparities, such as the causes for the high prevalence of asthma among Puerto Ricans and African Americans, compared to other races and ethnicities.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) there is a higher risk of death from asthma among African- American and Puerto Rican children. Identifying genetic, social and environmental risk factors for the development and prevalence of asthma will help explain these disparities.

Dr. José Rodríguez Santana and the team of biologists and medical technologists at HIMA San Pablo’s Pediatric Subspecialty Center in Pneumology, and Dr. Esteban G. Burchard of the University of California at San Francisco, deserve to be congratulated for conducting the research. This shows their commitment and that of higher education institutions to public health.

The study will begin with the recruitment of 3,000 pregnant Puerto Rican women. They will conduct a birth cohort study on their babies over five years. Molecular biology and epidemiology analysis will be conducted at universities in Denver, Colorado, and California. This birth cohort study will be funded through a $ 10 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The strong scientific and economic support shows the high level of professionalism, commitment, and expertise of these researchers, whose proposal raised expectations about the new insights it will find.

This collaborative research will be crucial to eradicate asthma, and this will require education, medical care, eliminating the causes of this disease and modifying habits associated with high incidence. Discoveries emerging from this study have the potential to influence millions of people who suffer from a very dangerous chronic condition.

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