Other research areas

While we focus our research on a range of priority conditions, we don't limit our research to just those conditions. This is what else we're researching, from pneumonia to tuberculosis (TB).

One of the biggest challenges in tackling lung disease is its diversity – there are scores of lung diseases, many of which require different approaches to treatment, care and research. We have funded a broad range of research into a wide variety of conditions, helping to improve diagnosis, treatment and care for lung disease.

Here's some of the research we've funded

Simvastatin: can this drug protect pneumonia patients against infection?

Dr Elizabeth Sapey and her team at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham looked into whether a cholesterol-lowering drug called simvastatin could help older people recover from pneumonia.

Dr Elizabeth Sapey

Neutrophils, a type of white blood cell, move from the blood into infected areas of the lungs to kill bacteria that cause infections like pneumonia. However, previous work by Dr Sapey’s team suggests that our neutrophils' ability to find and kill bacteria decrease as we age. Their research also suggests that simvastatin can improve neutrophil function during pneumonia. So Dr Sapey and her team conducted a small trial with people admitted to hospital with pneumonia to see if a high dose of simvastatin could improve their recovery.

The team found that people with pneumonia who were given simvastatin were less likely to die or be re-admitted to hospital than those who took a placebo drug. They also discovered that the drug was safe and had very few side-effects when used in this way. Further work is needed to confirm these findings on a larger scale trial, but we hope that this will become a life-saving approach to treating pneumonia in older people.

Developing new tools to manage tuberculosis (TB)

Professor Ajit Lalvani and his team looked into how the body’s immune system responds to a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) which causes tuberculosis (TB).

Many people who are infected with MTB can keep the infection under control, never get symptoms and do not require treatment. This is often referred to as ‘latent TB’. A small proportion of people who have latent TB will experience active TB disease at some point in their lifetime, with a cough, weight loss and damage to lungs or other parts of the body, which can be fatal. Despite many advances in research, at the time of this work, we were still unable to detect latent TB effectively and predict exactly who will develop active TB disease. This has made identifying and protecting people with latent TB very difficult.

During this study, Professor Lalvani and his team aimed to gain a better understanding of latent TB infection, so that they could understand how to detect it more accurately, and explain why and how some patients progress to active TB. They developed a new test that can identify latent TB more effectively than standard approaches. This could help improve approaches for identifying people who are at risk of developing active TB and to start appropriate treatment as early as possible. More research is needed to explore this approach further but we hope it will have a major impact in treating TB.

This could help improve approaches for identifying people who are at risk of developing active TB and to start appropriate treatment as early as possible.

This research has also provided researchers with information about which immune cells are most important in controlling MTB and could therefore be useful in designing ways to boost the immune response against MTB, or in the development of new drugs and vaccines for TB. 

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