UCL News


Dust mite Dispatches

4 April 2006

The Channel 4 documentary series 'Dispatches' will feature research led by Professor Tadj Oreszczyn (UCL Bartlett School) on how preventative measures can control asthma in children.

The UK has the highest prevalence of asthma in the world, and the number of new cases has trebled in the last 20 years. The show 'How To Beat Your Kid's Asthma', to be broadcast on 6 April 2006 at 9pm and continuing on 10 April at 8pm, will explore how certain lifestyle and household modifications can help combat dust mites, whose faecal pellets play a major role in allergic disease, especially asthma.

Professor Oreszczyn said: "House dust mites feed off human skin scale and live where skin scale is plentiful and hygrothermal conditions - temperature and relative humidity - are suitable. Mites can potentially be controlled by manipulating the hygrothermal conditions in the home."

However, such conditions in mite habitats are very variable and average hygrothermal values can be poor indicators of whether mites are likely to prosper. Because of the complexity of the main interacting factors, Professor Oreszczyn's team devised a sophisticated hygrothermal population model of house dust mites in beds, and as a result have become international leaders in this field of ever-growing importance.

"The programme features case studies taking place over six to eight weeks and involve 12 children aged between six and 14," explained Professor Oreszczyn. "The main interventions included thorough cleaning of the whole house, replacement of carpets in the child's bedroom with laminate flooring, covering mattresses, pillows and duvets with micro porous mite proof sheets, spraying soft furnishing and carpets throughout the house with anti allergen spray, removing cuddly toys, and providing tailored-advice on reducing moisture levels in the dwellings, with mite levels tested before and after the interventions."

The research team also monitored temperature and humidity inside and outside the dwelling, as well as modelling mite population growth to better assess the effect of the interventions. In addition, the researchers visited the households and provided them with tailored advice on moisture and mite control, based on building surveys, pressure-tests, thermal imaging, interviews with occupants, and hygrothermal data.

UCL's Dr Glenis Scadding (UCL Ear Institute), a consultant physician at the Royal National Throat Nose & Ear Hospital, monitored the health of the children during the Channel 4 study.

Finally, encapsulated sealed mites were used in the bedrooms, in order to specifically monitor the effect of the moisture-reducing interventions on mite populations.