Scientists from the University of Southampton and Synairgen Company have found a drug that protects asthma patients from respiratory virus infections like the common cold that spread to the lung causing asthma symptoms.

To test the effectiveness of the drug, the scientists conducted a study on 134 adult asthma patients. Among the 134 patients half of the patients were given the SNG001 drug and the others were given placebo.

Researchers found that SNG001 had prevented asthma symptoms from getting worse during the first week of infection and treatment. They found that more than 60 per cent of the patients had got mild asthma symptoms compared to patients who were treated with the placebo. Patients who were treated with placebo had a greater loss in lung function and they had got severe asthma.

Scientists believe that the SNG001 drug is one of the biggest breakthroughs in asthma treatments in the past 20 years. They claim that this drug could reduce hospital admissions and deaths as a result of asthma attacks.

There are more than five million asthma patients in the UK and in the US there are more than 25 million. Researchers found that among them more than 80 per cent asthma patients get asthma attacks because of cold and flu viruses, and until now they have not had any effective treatments that can stop this.

Scientists believe the new anti-viral drug could prevent asthma attacks for thousands of people who suffer from severe asthma.

"This trial, conducted by several UK academic respiratory experts, provides the first evidence of an effective anti-viral drug that can boost the asthmatic patient's immune system to fight viruses and thus significantly reduce the impact of virus infections on asthma control," said Professor Ratko Djukanovic, a clinical respiratory specialist at the University of Southampton, in a statement.

"This is a great result for the development of our programme. To put SNG001's potential into context, it is estimated that in the US alone there are some 2 to 4 million difficult to treat (Step 4 and 5) adult asthma sufferers who could benefit from this therapy. Children, who get more colds than adults, represent an additional asthma market opportunity. We believe that there will be even greater potential in COPD. We continue to analyse the wealth of data generated by this important trial and to plan the next phase of its development, ideally alongside an industry partner," said Richard Marsden, Chief Executive at the Synairgen Company.