Bronchiectasis is a rare lung disease that currently has no cure and no effective treatment. It causes parts of the airways to become enlarged which results in lung damage. Bronchiectasis patients are especially prone to fungal, viral, and bacterial infections. When these are not treated they can be fatal.
New research led by Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore has resulted in a discovery which could improve treatment and outcomes for this patient population.
This research was led by Sanjay Haresh Chotirmall at NTU but included an international team of researchers from Scotland, Malaysia, and Singapore. It’s goal was to examine the prevalence of allergies in bronchiectasis patients. Unlike earlier studies, this investigation included Asian and non-Asian populations whom researchers matched together according to severity of disease, gender, and age. Researchers then could control each factor to determine the exact type and cause of the allergies they were assessing. This study included 200 bronchiectasis patients total.
This study ultimately found that bronchiectasis patients do have high allergen sensitivity rates. In particular, fungi and dust mites were high irritants. This research is important because although there has yet to be an effective treatment for bronchiectasis, there are effective treatments for allergies. By examining bronchiectasis patients for allergies and treating them accordingly, doctors may be able to at least prevent the bronchiectasis from getting worse.
In total 100 Asian patients (from Malaysia and Singapore) and 100 non-Asian patients (from Scotland) were examined in this study. 58% of all patients had a sensitivity to at least one allergen. The type of allergen they reacted to depended on the region they were from. Asian patients had a higher sensitivity to major allergens of Aspergillus fumigatus as well as the house dust mite while non-Asian patients had a higher sensitivity to minor allergens of Aspergillus fumigatus.
Now that researchers understand that 1) bronchiectasis patients are clearly affected by allergens and 2) which allergens patients are affected by is dependent on their region, they can begin to tailor treatments specifically to individual patients. They also plan to examine additional environmental factors which may contribute to the disease and delve further into an investigation of bronchiectasis across regions.
The results from this study were published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
You can read more about these findings and the impact they could have on bronchiectasis research here.