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Around 5% of the adult UK population has reported suffering hay fever and around 10% suffer asthma, which can be aggravated by pollen. With approximately 150 different species of grass in the UK identifying which species of grass pollen people are allergic to is a very difficult task. Understanding which species are in the air in high quantities at a particular time will allow those with hay fever and asthma to better manage their disease by being aware of risky periods, avoiding exposure and having their medicines to hand.

autumnallergies 350x234A team of researchers in the UK are developing a new generation of pollen monitoring which they hope will lead to improved forecasts for thousands who suffer from summer allergies. This team of researchers aims to revolutionise the UK’s pollen forecasts by using molecular genetic approaches.

The UK is in a unique position to carry out this research, since researchers at the National Botanic Garden of Wales and Aberystwyth University have made a DNA reference library for UK plants that can be used to identify most species. Combined with DNA sequencing, the UK plant database can be used to identify which species, or combination of species, are linked to asthma attacks.

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) has awarded a three year grant to a consortium of universities to carry out the research, led by Bangor University, along with the Universities of Aberystwyth, Exeter, Worcester and the Met Office. The research is being under taken in collaboration with two of EFA’s UK based members Asthma UK, Allergy UK. The other organisations involved are the British Lung Foundation, the Royal Botanic Gardens of Edinburgh, the Leiden University Medical Centre and Fera Science Ltd.

It is predicted that the new forecasts will give more precise (and shorter) time periods during which patients will have to be cautious in. It will also help by providing information on when these may occur, allowing patients to take the necessary preparatory steps and helping to minimise symptoms.

The researchers hope that the outcomes of their work will help people living with allergic respiratory disease in the self-management of their conditions, and lead to greater improvement in their quality of life.

You can read more about the research from one of the Universities involved at this link.