Thoracic Society Conference Highlights
Poor Indoor Air Leaves Some Aussies Sniffling and Sick
Levels of indoor air pollution in some Australian homes can be high enough to affect residents health causing respiratory effects and irritation such as sensitive eyes, a runny nose and an itchy throat, a review has found. Senior Woolcock researcher Dr Christine Cowie led a review investigating indoor air quality in Australian houses and discovered most homes have low, safe levels of pollutants compared to levels seen in the US and Europe. However, worryingly a small proportion of homes, particularly those new builds with poorer ventilation and some homes with gas appliances, had peak concentrations that could trigger respiratory problems. The review recommends that home owner education about indoor air quality be improved, that industry standards to control emissions from building products continue to be implemented and that guidance on safe indoor air quality levels be considered nationally.
Bacteria and Viruses Cosy Up in Sick Lungs
People suffering from a chronic respiratory disease often have multiple viruses living in their sick lungs as well, award-winning Australian research has revealed. Work by Alicia Mitchell of the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research had shed light on bronchiectasis, a chronic respiratory condition that hospitalises 14,000 Australians and kills about 750 each year. She investigated the role of viruses in the infection and discovered sufferers also commonly have a virus, or multiple viruses, in their lungs. The revelation, which was highly commended at a recent respiratory health meeting, will change the way bronchiectasis is treated and improve the health of sufferers.
Smart Mouthpiece Helps Asthmatics Get Fast Flu Diagnosis
Scientists have developed a simple device to quickly detect viruses in asthmatics so they can get much-needed treatment sooner. Viruses can be notoriously difficult and uncomfortable to detect in people with common respiratory conditions like asthma and COPD. Frustrated with the lack of options for these patients, Woolcock PhD candidate Alicia Mitchell investigated using a new tool, a mouthpiece with a filter, to quickly trap, diagnose and then treat viruses like the common cold and the flu. The innovative device could prevent severe illness and hospitalisation, Ms Mitchell says.
Chemical Promises Asthmatics Airway Relief
An Australian researcher has discovered a potential new treatment for asthma which may limit severity of the condition by curbing blood vessel growth. A chemical called tumstatin is present in healthy airways to regulate the growth of blood vessels. Asthmatics are missing this chemical, leaving them with vessel growth which fuels their condition. In lab tests, Woolcock PhD student Louise Harkness showed that by injecting tumstatin into muscle cells she was able to block vessel growth, suggesting the chemical might be an effective new treatment to improve asthma severity.
(Source: The Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand: TSANZSRS Annual Scientific Meeting 2015)