Bronchial asthma is a disease that affects a relatively high percentage of the population and "unfortunately" does not have one single pathogenic cause but multiple risk factors and different types of genetic predisposition. Certainly, knowledge of the many possible factors that can cause an attack of asthma and of the complex and variable pathogenic mechanisms behind the disease is very important in determining the implications in terms of the diagnosis, treatment and prevention. Becoming "attached" to a triggering etiology only because it is demonstrable often leads astray as the researcher then tends to neglect the concept of multiple factors. This is all the more important if we consider the fact that, everywhere in the world, cases of bronchial asthma are on the rise, especially in children, and that in last decade there has been an increase in fatalities due to asthma. The increase of the relevance of the disease could be related to the synergetic action of allergens, genetic factors, allergizing factors and atmospheric pollution. Just as the role of respiratory infections in setting off attacks of asthma and the very pathogenesis of asthma itself seem to draw new interest. The Conference of Venice proposes to delineate the state of the art and knowledge of the role of the various risk factors, taking the predisposing genetic factors into account as well. The session on genetics will bring together some of the pioneers in studies of genetics as applied to bronchial asthma and will certainly provide significant avenues for exploration of this aspect of the problem, from the methods to the results of the studies, to arrive at the presentation of the first "asthma gene" to be identified up to now. The Conference will then go on to further explore the relationships between hyper-reactivity and bronchial phlogosis and between these factors and the other endogenous and exogenous factors and definition of the role of infections in the complex pathogenesis of the disease. Discussion with experts "in the field" will make it possible to observe the way in which the different lines of research, apparently so far apart, are actually converging toward improvement of the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of this important pathology.
Prof. Luigi Allegra President of the Meeting