Cure for Severe Asthma is Focus of Lecture by UMass Amherst Researcher Wilmore Webley

February 7, 2014

Contact: Daniel J. Fitzgibbons 413/545-0444

AMHERST, Mass. – Wilmore Webley, associate professor of microbiology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, will speak on “A Cure for Severe Asthma: New Hope for the Future,” on Monday, Feb. 10 at 6:30 p.m. in the Campus Center Auditorium. He is the featured speaker for the Commonwealth Honors College Faculty Lecture Series.

Webley will introduce his own research conducted on hard-to-control asthma symptoms. This research determines that patients who do not respond well to typical corticosteroid inhaler treatments most often have Chlamydia pneumoniae, a bacterium in the lungs that directly leads to lung damage. Webley’s laboratory was one of the first to culture Chlamydia samples from children with severe chronic asthma and determine that Chlamydial infections early in life will increase the risk of asthma onset in later years.

Asthma is a major public health problem that affects over 300 million people worldwide. The prevalence of this affliction has increased considerably over the past three decades. In his talk, Webley will reflect on the newfound hope for patients who suffer from difficult-to-control asthma. His UMass Amherst laboratory has been able to confirm, through both animal model and human clinical trials, that antibiotic azithromycin treatments can significantly reduce or eliminate symptoms in 86 percent of patients with this type of bacteria-induced asthma. Webley’s research shows that patients once debilitated by severe respiratory distress, daily corticosteroid use and frequent emergency room visits, can return to a life free from troublesome symptoms. These patients include those who have suffered from asthma for more than 20 years, as well as those recently diagnosed with persistent asthma.

A Fulbright scholar, Webley has authored three editions of Biology of AIDS in addition to numerous articles in reputable international journals. His 2005 manuscript in the Blue Journal was named by the American Academy of Pediatrics as one of the best articles in allergy and immunology for the publication year. He earned his doctorate from UMass Amherst in microbiology with expertise in immunology, pathogenic bacteriology and host-pathogen interactions. Webley earned the university’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 2008.

Commonwealth Honors College established the Faculty Lecture Series in order to recognize university faculty who have made significant contributions to research or creative activity. The Faculty Lecture Series aims to introduce speakers who will be able to broaden the perspectives of Commonwealth Honors College students through their inspiring work.