BREATH researchers Prof. Dr. Tobias Welte and PD Dr. Felix Ringshausen are part of the largest study worldwide up to now on bronchiectasis. The European Bronchiectasis Register EMBARC (European Multicentre Bronchiectasis Audit and Research Collaboration) has, since 2015, collected data on around 17,000 people with bronchiectasis and published these recently in the renowned journal The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.
Bronchiectasis has often been previously classed as a chronic disease, which is accompanied by expansions and bulging of the airways. These can occur due to a hereditary predisposition or following infection or a multitude of chronic pulmonary diseases such as mucoviscidosis, PCD, COPD or tuberculosis. „It is really questionable, whether it is a question of a rare or rather a rarely diagnosed bronchiectasis disease. Unfortunately, research in this area has been neglected for many years“, says BREATH scientist PD Dr. Felix Ringshausen. At Hannover Medical School (MHH), he has for many years dedicated his time to research into bronchiectasis and with his team set up the German Bronchiectasis Register PROGNOSIS in 2015. It is the aim of PROGNOSIS to better understand the causes, characteristics and co-morbidities of the disease in Germany, in order to be able to offer targeted therapies for those affected. Currently, there is no medication that is specifically approved for the treatment of bronchiectasis.
For PD Dr. Ringshausen and the PROGNOSIS Team it was obvious that they would also contribute the data from the German Bronchiectasis Register to the European Register. „The more data we can collect from those affected, the more likely it is that we can draw conclusions and new therapeutic approaches from them“, says Ringshausen. Since 2015 he has therefore also shared the harmonized German data with the EMBARC Register. Up to April 2022, 16,963 affected persons have been included in the ongoing study, contributing details about their health, previous therapies, hospitalizations and exacerbations. The first results of the study have now been published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine and they indicate that people with bronchiectasis often have other illnesses, such as asthma (31%) or COPD (25%). In about 38% of all those examined, no cause of their illness could be established. It was noticeable that there were regional differences in the severe infections which were found more frequently in Eastern and Central Europe than in Western and Southern Europe to be triggers of the bronchiectasis. Whilst in Southern Europe, Pseudomonas aeruginosa was the bacterium most frequently leading to a chronic airway infection, in Northern and Western European countries, Haemophilus influenzae was proven to be more frequent. The reason for this remains unclear up to now.
As important starting points for further research, the participating scientists consider the regional difference in frequency of various types of bacteria and especially the increased rate of exacerbations under which those affected in Central and Eastern Europe suffer. Here it is important, in the future, to improve the diagnosis and therapy of those affected. „Particularly for sufferers in Central and Eastern European countries, the data from the study give cause for hope. We can contribute to the establishment there of the known and well functioning diagnostic and therapeutic procedures used in other countries“, says PD Dr. Ringshausen, who is aware of the vast advantages of cross-national studies of those illnesses neglected by medical research and also backs the work carried out by the EMBARC Team, where he is a member of the Steering Committee together with Prof. Dr. Welte.