Background: Asthma is a major public health problem worldwide, and the morbidity and mortality of asthma have increased in the past two decades. The reputed efficacy, low cost, and relative absence of side effects of traditional Chinese medicines (TCMs) have led to increasing interest in the use of TCMs for the treatment of asthma in Western countries. However, there are few well-controlled scientific studies on the efficacy, safety, and mechanisms of action of TCMs used to treat asthma.
Objective: The goal of this study was to investigate the effects of the Chinese herbal medicine formula MSSM-002, derived from TCMs used to treat allergic asthma, on a well-characterized mouse model of allergic asthma.
Methods: Mice sensitized intraperitoneally and challenged intratracheally with conalbumin were treated with MSSM-002 24 hours after the first intratracheal challenge. Dexamethasone-treated, saline solution sham-treated, and naive mice served as controls. The effects of MSSM-002 on allergic airway hyperreactivity, inflammation, antigen-specific antibody production, lung histologic features, and cytokine profiles were evaluated.
Results: MSSM-002 treatment virtually eliminated airway hyperreactivity and markedly reduced the total number of cells and the percent eosinophils in bronchoalveolar lavage fluids compared with the sham-treated group. Lung histologic features showed that MSSM-002 reduced inflammation and mucus production. These effects were equivalent to the effects of dexamethasone, but in contrast to the overall immunosuppressive effects of dexamethasone MSSM-002 treatment decreased antigen-specific IgE, IL-4, IL-5, and IL-13 levels without suppressing IgG2a and IFN-gamma synthesis.
Conclusion: MSSM-002 exhibits anti-airway hyperresponsiveness, anti-airway inflammation, and immunoregulatory effects on T(H)1/T(H)2 responses, which may be useful for treatment of allergic asthma.