Almost 1 in 20 Canadians suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a type of chronic airway inflammation that can significantly restrict physical activity. COPD can be managed through medication; however, medications neither provide a cure nor prolong life expectancy. COPD remains the 4th leading cause of death in Canada with an annual cost of $600 million to the province. Patients need additional therapeutic options, and non-pharmaceutical alternatives may reduce the financial burden on the health care system.
Understanding the relationship between the microbial communities (“microbiome”) in a patient’s lungs and their environment is a promising area of research that could present environmental modifications as a potential treatment option.
Drs. Chris Carlsten and Janice Leung of the University of British Columbia will be applying their expertise in respiratory disease to a study investigating how the microbes within the lungs of patients with COPD are different from the microbes in the air of their home environment. By identifying the microbial signature of a COPD patient, they will be able to determine if certain microbes are associated with symptoms and cellular indicators of COPD. Most importantly, they will be able to determine whether those harmful microbes are likely to originate in the air in the home.
This work may reveal new features of chronic lung disease, demonstrate an important link between COPD patients and their environments, and establish this approach as a blueprint for investigating other types of lung disease. The results may suggest easy-to-implement changes people can make to their environment that could improve the lives of COPD patients and reduce health care costs.