Study will help transform pollen forecasting

Posted on 20th October 2015

New research is hoping to improve pollen forecasts for allergy sufferers across the UK, with a novel approach to pollen monitoring.

Researchers from Bangor University, the Met Office and the Universities of Exeter, Aberystwyth and Worcester have teamed up to conduct the study, which will use DNA sequencing to identify which species of grass are linked to allergic attacks.

For millions of people, the onset of spring and summer brings misery as they battle with itchy eyes and sneezing brought about by pollen allergies. Around 5% of the UK’s adult population suffers from hay fever, with around 10% having asthma that can be aggravated by pollen.

There are 150 different species of grass in the UK and with no easy way of distinguishing between their different pollen grains, identifying which species people are allergic to has – so far – been difficult.

This research will develop understanding of which pollens are prevalent at particular times, providing those with hay fever and asthma a tool to better manage their conditions.

Dr Ben Wheeler, an expert in Health Geography at the University of Exeter Medical School said:

“We’re really excited to be partnering on this study, which could transform the way we forecast pollen levels and understand their impacts. Using DNA sequencing to identify plant types is an entirely new approach to the problem – and one which will hopefully have real benefits for people with allergies.”

Dr Simon Creer, study lead at Bangor University, said “I’ve suffered pollen allergies for almost 30 years and now we have an opportunity to find out which species of grass are linked to one of the worst allergic responses, asthma. In combination with developing new technologies to measure and model pollen, the grant offers an exciting opportunity.”

Dr Nick Osborne, a Health Researcher at the University of Sydney and Honorary Member of the European Centre added “This work will enable health researchers to pinpoint which species of grass pollen are present and where and when they’re likely to prevail. We’re hoping this information will allow patients to better control their exposure to, and medication for, grass pollen.”

The Natural Environment Research Council has funded the study, which is being conducted in collaboration with Asthma UK, Allergy UK, British Lung Foundation, the Royal Botanic Gardens of Edinburgh, the Leiden University Medical Centre and Fera Science Ltd.

Full details can be found here

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