Islamabad-According to recent study by researchers, vitamin D supplements to standard treatment may reduce the risk of severe asthma attacks.

Lead author Prof Adrian Martineau and colleagues noted that previous studies have associated low vitamin D levels with greater risk of asthma attacks in people with the respiratory condition.

As such, researchers have increasingly investigated whether vitamin D supplementation might benefit asthma patients.

For their review, Prof Martineau and colleagues analysed the data of nine studies - lasting between 6-12 months - that assessed how vitamin D supplementation influences asthma symptoms and asthma attacks.

The risk of hospital admission or emergency department visits due to severe asthma attacks was reduced from 6 per cent to 3 per cent with oral vitamin D supplementation, the researchers report, and no severe side effects were identified.

What is more, the team found that vitamin D supplementation reduced the need for steroid treatment for asthma attacks; steroid treatment may be administered to reduce airway inflammation when a patient’s inhaler is no longer effective.

No improvements in everyday asthma symptoms were found with vitamin D supplementation, nor did the supplements improve patients’ lung function. Prof Martineau hails these results as ‘exciting’ but because the study has some important limitations, he says the results should be interpreted with caution.

He notes that first of all, most of the patients enrolled in the studies were adults with mild to moderate asthma, so further research is warranted to determine whether vitamin D supplementation is effective for children and adults with severe asthma.

“Second, it is not yet clear whether vitamin D supplements can reduce risk of severe asthma attacks in all patients, or whether this effect is just seen in those who have low vitamin D levels to start with,” says Prof Martineau.

“Further analyses to investigate these questions are ongoing, and results should be available in the next few months.” Meanwhile another research by Swedish researchers says, smartphones can be used in diagnosing ear infections.

“Because of lack of health personnel in many developing countries, ear infections are often misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all. This may lead to hearing impairments, and even to life-threatening complications,” said one of the researchers, Claude Laurent from the Umea University in Sweden.

The researchers focused on diagnosis of otitis media, inflammation of the ear, especially in the middle ear, that annually affects half a billion children worldwide. Not treating the ear infection can be dangerous, potentially leading to hearing impairments, and in certain extreme cases, can even have life-threatening complication, the researchers said. To enable rapid and reliable diagnoses of the ear infection, the experts developed an image-processing technique to classify otitis media.

The software-based system consists of a cloud-based analysis of images of the eardrum taken using an otoscope, an instrument used in the medical examination of ears.

The image is then uploaded to the cloud via a smartphone, where it’s automatically analyzed and compared with high-resolution archive imagery. The software looks for predefined visual features, and places the new image in one of five diagnostic groups.

The findings showed that the automatically generated diagnoses based on images taken with a commercial video-otoscope had an accuracy of 80.6 per cent.

The test could provide rapid access to accurate and low-cost diagnoses in developing countries.

“This method has great potential to ensure accurate diagnoses of ear infections in countries where such opportunities are not available at present,” Laurent maintained.