Glucose in The Airways Could Increase Infections In Lung Disease Patients

Source: Imperial College London

Summary: Researchers in a new study found that the concentration of glucose in the airways of people with COPD was almost twice as high as in people without the condition.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is an umbrella term used to describe progressive lung diseases such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis, refractory asthma, and some forms of bronchiectasis. COPD is characterized by difficulty in breathing as the airways are narrowed. An estimated 1.2 million people in the UK have diagnosed with COPD. Many of these people are prone to suffering from bacterial lung infections. Researchers from the Imperial College London in a new study found that the concentration of glucose in the airways of people with COPD was almost twice as high as in people without the condition. Study results suggest that reducing glucose levels in the airways could provide an alternative approach to antibiotics in reducing bacterial infection of the lungs. The study findings were published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Glucose in airways of  COPD  patients increases infections

Credit: Imperial College London

The research team analyzed existing sputum samples from people with COPD. The analysis of the existing samples found that the average glucose concentration in sputum samples of COPD subjects was 743 micromoles compared to 390.5 micromoles in non-COPD subjects. The analysis also demonstrated a negative relationship between glucose concentration and forced expiratory volume (FEV), which is a measure of lung function, suggesting that glucose levels increase with the severity of COPD. The next step will see the team seeking funding to investigate the use of anti-diabetic drugs such as metformin to control levels of airway glucose and therefore hopefully reduce bacterial load. Metformin is safe as it is already in use to treat diabetes. The team aims to test how effective it is at reducing bacterial infections in people with COPD.

Lead author, Dr. John Tregoning said, “We believe that the glucose levels are higher in the airways of people with COPD because inflammation in the lungs makes them leakier so the glucose can move from the blood into the airways”, “When people with COPD catch a virus this further increases inflammation and therefore the levels of glucose also rise, heightening the risk of a bacterial infection.”

More Information: Patrick Mallia et al, “Role of airway glucose in bacterial infections in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease”, Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (2017). DOI:

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *