Woman plagued by constant chronic cough for 35 years hopes relief may be in sight

A new treatment being trialled at NIHR Manchester Clincal Research Facility (CRF) at Wythenshawe Hospital could transform the life of a grandmother and others whose lives have been plagued by painful, hacking cough.

Cough is the most common condition for which patients see their doctors, but currently there are very few treatments that improve the condition, with up to 12 per cent of people in the UK being affected by a chronic cough during their lifetime. Coughing occurs when airway nerves are activated; irritating chemicals in the air, and changes in temperature can cause coughing.

Ann Mayer, from Llanbeda, Wales who is originally from Stockport has battled a chronic cough every day since her early 40’s, with doctors unable to provide a diagnosis or a lasting remedy.

The 75-year-old, who performs with St Asaph’s Choral Society, is part of a new study that aims to find out more about a promising new drug called MK-7264 that could help chronic coughs caused by a variety of factors.

A five-year grant, which is running in partnership with Imperial College in London, is being funded by a £3.04 million Investigator award from charitable trust Wellcome. Researchers plan to run a number of clinical studies to help understand why some patients respond to the drug and will help create tailored treatment pathways

Grandmother-of-four Ann said: “I’ve coughed every day since I was about 40 and have been back and forth to my doctor and other specialists countless times over the years, with no solution to the problem.

“It’s extremely painful and has meant that I have had to duck out of performances with my choir mid-song – singing has been my passion since I was a teenager and I’m terrified that my cough will one day stop me performing altogether.

I moved to Wales 16 years ago, but visit Manchester as part of the trials investigating the causes of my cough. I’m excited to be part of this new research and hope that it will help doctors learn more about the causes and treatment of chronic coughs.

Led by Professor Jacky Smith, Professor of respiratory medicine from the University of Manchester and Medical Director, Manchester CRF at Wythenshawe Hospital, working with Professor Maria Belvisi Imperial College London, the research will look at why the MK-7264 drug only improved symptoms in 75 per cent of cases, and develop new tests to identify which patients will respond best to the treatment. This test will allow doctors to help target the right treatment for patients quickly and efficiently.

Professor Jacky Smith said: 

Our previous research highlighted how MK-7264 could help treat a cough, but more work is needed if we are to provide a treatment for all those battling chronic cough.

“There are many people in the UK just like Ann who have been blighted by a painful cough for years, and they’re desperate to solve the problem to get on with their lives.

“We’re confident that our trials which will be delivered by the NIHR Manchester Clinical Research Facility will help us to understand better how we can treat such conditions and allow us to create treatment plans that are specific to the individual.

Professor Maria Belvisi added: “It is exciting to be working with Professor Smith to uncover fundamental disease mechanisms involved in chronic cough where effective therapeutic options are urgently needed.”

Another arm of the grant will see Professor Smith and her team looking into whether the treatment can extend to all types of cough, such as asthma and lung fibrosis.