24 June 2002
It’s simple, done without thinking, and most of us take it for granted.
But for some people, breathing can be a laborious and painful process because their lungs are severely damaged.
Action Research, a leading medical charity has agreed to fund almost £90,000 towards a new study focusing on a common but dangerous cause of chronic lung infections. The offending bacterium or ‘bug’ can be notoriously difficult to overcome and sometimes fatal, especially among people with the inherited disease Cystic Fibrosis.
The two-year London project, which has been announced as part of the national Breathe Easy Week (beginning June 29), could significantly improve our understanding of the illness, thereby helping reduce unnecessary deaths.
Leading the research Dr Tom Evans, a Consultant in Infectious Diseases at the Imperial College of Science, London says: ‘Cystic Fibrosis is a chronic debilitating disease which still leads to premature death of those affected. Although life expectancy is improving, this still means many people will die in their teens and early twenties. Once lung damage occurs this is irreversible, and progressive disability occurs.
‘Patients and families of those with Cystic Fibrosis suffer enormously with this condition and anything that can be done to help understand this common disease better is extremely important.’
The Action Research study will be focusing on a bacterium called Pseudomonas aeruginosa (Pa) - the most common cause of such lung infections. Pa affects more than 80% of people with Cystic Fibrosis, and is a major contributing factor to death among these patients.
Once established in the lung it is remarkably difficult to eradicate for reasons that are not entirely clear. It is also increasingly resistant to antibiotics.
And it’s not just Cystic Fibrosis patients that are vulnerable. Lung infections caused by Pa are also problematic to treat among people with compromised immune systems, and cause fatalities in more than half of affected patients on intensive care units.
As a bacterium, Dr Evans explains, Pa is found widely in natural and domestic environments (including soil and plants), and as many as 50,000 people suffer from it at any one time in the UK. Typical symptoms include shortness of breath, a phlegm-like cough, fever, and sometimes wheezing.
Action Research, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, is funding a study to try and identify the specific poisons or toxins responsible for damaging the lungs of these patients, and the mechanisms involved.
Dr Evans, who works at the Hammersmith Hospital, says: ‘The aim is to help develop new treatments for the condition and hopefully reduce the numbers of deaths resulting from the infection.’
Tracy Swinfield, Director of Research at Action Research says: ‘The Charity’s 50th anniversary is not only an opportunity to celebrate our achievements, but also to look forward to the challenges ahead. It would be wonderful if we could make inroads into such a common but fearsome cause of lung infection, and help improve the quality of life for these patients.’
Action Research is dedicated to helping overcome disease and disability for children, families and the elderly across the UK. Its Touching Lives Campaign aims to raise £2.5m in 2002 for vital medical research and more details can be found at www.action.org.uk
*Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is one of the UK’s most common life-threatening inherited diseases *One in every 2,500 babies are born with it. *CF affects vital organs in the body, especially the lungs and the pancreas, by clogging them with a thick sticky mucus making it difficult to breathe and digest food properly. *CF sufferers are very susceptible to chest infections that can cause serious lung damage. *Five babies are born every week with CF and three young people die of the disease every week. *An average lifespan of a person with CF is about 30 years. *Transplantation is sometimes the only prospect for those with the latter stages of the disease. *Breathe Easy Week is organised by the British Lung Foundation. For more details contact 0207 8315831 or visit www.lunguk.org
For further information and interviews, please contact Nicole Duckworth in the Action Research press office on 01403 327403 Fax: 01403 210541, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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