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According to the World Health Organisation, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) will become the third leading cause of death worldwide by the year 2020.

This is a statistic that Director of Respiratory Medicine at the Lyell McEwin Hospital (LMH) Dr James Geake knows all too well, seeing first-hand the effects severe chronic lung diseases have on patient’s quality of life.

The Hospital Research Foundation is proud to extend our support to Adelaide’s northern suburbs, to help with translational research like Dr Geake’s, who with his team, is dedicated to improving the lives of our community.

Dr Geake and his respiratory team are concerned with improving outcomes for patients with severe COPD who are also suffering with a chronic infection called pseudomonas.

“Pseudomonas is a particular type of bug that floats around in the air but people with severe lung disease are more susceptible to catching. Whilst there has been much research in the area of this infection in Cystic Fibrosis, there has been little into COPD,” Dr Geake said.

“This infection means that people with severe COPD are often coming into hospital with an exacerbation of their condition, which not only significantly impairs their quality of life but drives a decline in their lung function and makes their condition progressively worse.”

Dr Geake explains that around a third of people living with severe COPD who are diagnosed with pseudomonas will be living with the chronic infection for the rest of their life, unable to clear it.

“The problem is this infection is highly resistant to treatments and usually requires a broad spectrum of antibiotic therapy, so currently there is a concern that we would be overtreating patients and driving antibiotic resistance if we treated the infection on top of their COPD.

“We want to find out how we can best treat these patients who present to hospital with exacerbations of their COPD that have this chronic pseudomonas infection. This is an area that is in dire need of research.”

The aim of Dr Geake and his team’s research is to first find out how prevalent this infection is in patients with COPD in South Australian hospitals, before conducting a clinical trial to determine the best course of treatment for them.

“The first step is to look at the prevalence of this infection in the cohort of patients who come to hospital with an exacerbation of COPD,” Dr Geake said.

“We then want to launch a clinical trial to compare current therapies directly targeted to pseudomonas with standard COPD therapies to see if there is any benefit for using these powerful antibiotics to treat the infection. Will it improve outcomes for the patient and reduce their need to come into hospital?”

With little evidence to date on how to treat COPD patients with this infection, a clinical trial will prove vital to help inform future clinicians on the right treatment avenue for the individual patient and their quality of life.

If you would like to support lifesaving research at the LMH please get in touch either by emailing contactus@hospitalresearch.com.au or call (08) 8244 1100.