London: Researchers have identified a biomarker that can not only predict the progression of a deadly lung diseased called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) but also lead to better treatment.
COPD is a group of lung diseases that block airflow and make it difficult to breathe.
According to researchers, a process initiated in neutrophils -- the most common type of white blood cells found in mammals and important for fighting infection -- may lead to worse outcomes for some patients with COPD.
"The study found that a recently identified form of neutrophil behaviour called neutrophil extracellular trap (NET) formation is present in the lungs of COPD patients and may weaken their ability to eat and kill bacteria," said lead author James D Chalmers from the University of Dundee in Scotland.
For the study, the team recruited 141 patients with stable COPD.
The findings showed that during neutrophilic airway inflammation -- when NET formation weakens neutrophils' bacteria-fighting capability -- patients experience more frequent chest infections, worse lung function and quality of life.
Further, the amount of NET complexes in the lungs of patients was directly related to the severity of their COPD and the risk of exacerbations.
NETs increased significantly during exacerbations that did not respond to corticosteroid treatment.
The marker may also help in identifying patients at higher risk of the disease deterioration as well as those who may need treatments other than corticosteroids like anti-inflammatory medicine (steroids).
"The study stressed the need to identify new COPD treatments and further discover whether inhibiting NET formation will result in improved clinical outcomes for patients with COPD," the researchers concluded.
The results were presented at the ATS 2016 International Conference in California recently.