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    Posted 17 November 2003

    THE LATEST RESEARCH into a weather phenomenon that affects UK wheat quality could have a knock on effect in the fight against asthma.

    Researchers at Harper Adams University College working with MAARA, the Midlands Asthma and Allergy Research Association, and the University of Reading, believe fluctuations in air pressure, known as the North Atlantic Oscillation or NAO, may contribute to the presence of fungal spores in the air. These spores can then cause summer asthma.

    The fungi that release these spores, such as Cladosporium, grow on plants, including wheat, in the summer and release spores into the air. Wet weather causes the wheat grains to sprout, which makes the grains unsuitable for bread making, devalues the crop, and also reduces the number of Cladosporium spores released.

    Research into the NAO during the winter was initially carried out to monitor its effect on summer rainfall levels in the UK and provide an early prediction about whether or not the wheat grain will have sprouted by the time it is ready to harvest.

    Further research, due to be published in the International Journal of Biometeorology in December, has now revealed that the number of Cladosporium spores released during summer may be linked to the NAO.

    Dr Peter Kettlewell said: “Our results show that some types of spores causing asthma increase as the NAO rises, and we are currently working on developing an early warning of a high spore year.”


    Notes to Editors:

    1. For further information, please contact Dr Peter Kettlewell on +44 (0) 1952 815 299 or e-mail

    2. Photo opportunities, such as a demonstration by Dr Kettlewell of the spore trapping equipment, are available.

    3. The full article reference is as follows: Hollins, P. D., Kettlewell, P. S., Atkinson, M. D., Stephenson, D. B., Corden, J. M., Millington, W. M., Mullins, J. (2003). Relationships between airborne fungal spore concentration of Cladosporium and the summer climate at two sites in Britain. International Journal of Biometeorology (in press) DOI 10.1007/s00484-003-0188-9. Available at:,7,13;journal,1,34;linkingpublicationresults,id:100429,1

    4. MAARA, Midlands Asthma and Allergy Research Association, is a Midlands charity which conducts and funds research into asthma and other allergic diseases and runs an extensive help and information service to the general public throughout the UK. Website: http//

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