Salbutamol (and salmeterol) reliever inhalers are the corner-stone of acute asthma treatment in children. But recent research in the UK has revealed that 1-in-7 asthmatic children do not respond to their “blue” salbutamol (or Ventolin) asthma-relieving inhalers. This is due to a genetic mutation that prevents them developing a specific receptor in their airways that attaches to the salbutamol molecule to allow it’s life saving bronchodilator action. This results in worstening asthma and frequent hospitalisation. These children do however respond to another asthma treatment in pill-form called Montelukast (or Singulair).
A simple gene test on a sample of saliva taken from the mouth can be be used to check if the gene for this salbutamol receptor is present or whether the mutation causing a lack of this preceptor has occured. This way children can be tested to see if their asthma should be treated with salbutamol and salmeterol inhalers or by the montelukast tablet as an alternative therapy. This genetic mutation is a treatment dilemma in children but unlikely to be a problem in adult-onset asthma.