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Stories from November, 2015


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Beat the Flu

SneezeThe ‘flu, or influenza virus can cause infections all year round, but in the UK, it is most common in the winter. There are many strains, some of which are worse than others, such as swine ‘flu (H1N1 strain) which tends to have a more rapid onset, high fevers and stomach upset and has caused fatalities, often in previously fit adults.  ‘Flu affects 10% of the population each year, but rises to 25-30% during an epidemic. In contrast, adults have approx 2 to 3 colds per year and children 5 to 6.

Do I Have ‘Flu or a Cold?

Features of ‘Flu Features of a Cold
  • Symptoms appear suddenly
  • Leaves you exhausted and unable to move, affecting the whole body
  • Can cause complications, including pneumonia, sometimes fatal
  • Lasts for one week, then you get better
  • Symptoms appear gradually
  • Affects only nose, throat, sinuses and upper chest
  • Still able to function
  • Recover fully in a week

Vaccination Against the ‘Flu

Anyone can get the ‘flu and, the more a person is in close contact with people who have the virus, the more likely they are to get it.  Certain at risk groups are advised to have a ‘flu vaccination. They include:

  • Everyone over the age of 65.
  • People of any age with lung diseases, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes or lowered immunity.
  • Anyone living in a residential or nursing home.
  • Carers of those at risk.

The UK is fortunate to have a safe and effective vaccination against the ‘flu, which is provided free of charge by the NHS. Those most at risk are advised to have a vaccination every year. This is because the ‘flu virus changes slightly every year.  Despite popular belief, the ‘flu vaccination can not give you ‘flu. It’s true that some people experience symptoms of a heavy cold at the same time or just after they’ve had the ‘flu jab – this is simply a coincidence and the symptoms are caused by one of the many common cold viruses in the autumn and winter.  It is still possible to suffer heavy colds after a vaccination, as the ‘flu jab only protects people from the ‘flu virus, not other viruses.

The ‘flu vaccination is available from October each year.  Anyone who thinks they need it should talk to their doctor or nurse.

How to Treat the ‘Flu

Antibiotics are of no use in treating ‘flu. Anti-viral medication is available from the GP for at risk groups, but it needs to be taken early on in the disease to stop the virus multiplying, and may only reduce the symptoms rather than treating the infection.

The best ways to treat the symptoms of flu are:

  • Get plenty of rest. The body uses a lot of energy fighting infections, so resting for the first couple of days gets it off to a good start.
  • Keep warm.
  • Make sure you drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration, and try hot water with lemon, ginger and honey to relieve symptoms such as sore throat.
  • Take paracetamol or anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen to lower a high temperature and relieve aches.

Always contact your doctor if you’re not getting better after a few days, if you’re unduly short of breath or if you’re coughing up blood or large amounts of yellow or green phlegm.

HappyHow to Keep Healthy and Avoid Getting the ‘Flu

  • Keep your immune system strong by eating a healthy diet.
  • Take regular exercise.
  • Get enough rest and relaxation.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Take regular vitamins and bump up your vitamin C.
  • Wash your hands often and keep a bottle of antibacterial handclean around.
  • Avoid people who are coughing and sneezing, especially if they’re not covering their mouth and nose.
  • Use and bin your tissues.

What Shall We Do in the Spring?


velodrome 1
In the summer, we have Cyclotopia – a charity bike ride with a difference at the Olympic Park Velodrome [].
In the autumn, we have our #Breathtember campaign  – raising awareness of pulmonary fibrosis and Jo running 9Kasking people to get out of breath and tweet the term #Breathtember [].
Holst SingersIn the winter, we have our fabulous Charity Christmas Concert [11.12.15]
We also support awareness days, such as World COPD Day and World Pneumonia Day in November. 
We are looking into what we could hold in the spring – it could be a 5K/10K run, a clean air campaign, another awareness day, a sponsored climb … anything!

Rugby Union World Cup Quiz, Autumn 2015 Newsletter


Q: How many players make up a Rugby Union team?

A: 15


Q: How many Rugby World Cups have there been?

A: 8


Q: How many points for a drop goal?

A: 3


Q: What is the Rugby World Cup trophy called?

A: Webb Ellis Cup


Q: Who scored the most tries in the 2015 Rugby World Cup?

A: Julian Savea of New Zealand



Autumn 2015 Newsletter

For our Autumn 2015 Newsletter, please click here



Scientific Round Up for 2015

By Dr Porter and Prof Brown

It has been a busy year for presentations this year in the Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD) Group. Dr Theresia with CryoscopeTheresia Mikolasch (Breathing Matters Lawrence Matz Clinical Fellow) presented the UCLH experience of relatively non-invasive cryobiopsies at the European Respiratory Society in Amsterdam in September. This was very well received as she is the pioneer of this procedure in the UK and it is only currently available at UCLH. Dr Mikolasch is also due to give a talk on her work at the British Thoracic Society meeting in December.

Dr Akif Khawaja is presenting his work on rheumatoid arthritis associated ILD at the American Society of Rheumatology in November in San Francisco. The results from the novel PET imaging project has shown some remarkable correlations between the results of the original FDG-PET scan of the lungs and mortality in pulmonary fibrosis of all varieties and we hope that this paper will be published in the New Year.

Dr Sara Brilha has completed a paper looking at the effect of fibrosis on the lung epithelium which is now submitted for publication.

The group continues to grow with a new research nurse and study coordinator and has signed up to five clinical trials in ILD, including a study of combined pirfenidone and nintedanib therapy in IPF; pirfenidone in non-IPF ILD; septrin in IPF; dabigatran in IPF; losmapimod in RA-ILD; as well as our ongoing studies.

We have also been awarded a joint grant with Papworth to look at obliterative bronchiolitis, a complication that affects many patients post-lung transplant, that we hope to start in the New Year.

It has also been a busy year for publications for Professor Brown’s Lung Infection group with 11 research papers published so far. The highlights are a paper in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (Suri et al in press JACI) describing how exposure to welding fumes makes pneumonia more likely, and a paper published in November in the European Respiratory Journal (Quint et al. Europ Resp J in press 2015) which shows that bronchiectasis is  much commoner than previously thought and is increasing in both incidence and prevalence as well as associated with a marked increase in age-dependent mortality.

Blue coats in labThe eagerly awaited laboratory refurbishment is at last complete and we are excited that the New Year will be very productive after being uprooted from the laboratories for the move. The refurb has been funded by UCL as part of their commitment to keep the buildings in working order.

Dr Manuela Plate, one of our researchers says, “The newly refurbished labs are truly wonderful. It is not just the way they look, it is also the way spaces have been designed around us. It has really improved the way we work and the quality of our output.

I really like the new open plan office as well, the fact that we are all in the same room is improving communications between us and with the Principal Investigators and Professors, fostering conversations and collaborations between people in different groups. There is a really nice, collegiate atmosphere.  A big success all around!”

We would like to say a massive THANK YOU to all of our patients and fundraisers for taking part in our studies and for providing the means for us to keep our studies going.Thank You







‘Dickensian’ lung disease rates on the rise in UK pensioners

The number of people diagnosed with bronchiectasis, a lung condition thought to be a ‘disease of the past’, has risen considerably in the past decade and now affects more than 1% of UK pensioners, finds a new study by UCL, University College London Hospitals (UCLH) NHS Foundation Trust, Imperial College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The research was funded by the Medical Research Council and National Institute for Health Research.

Bronchiectasis is a disease in which the airways taking air into the lungs are damaged. It can be caused by a previous chest infection, weaknesses of the immune system and by conditions that cause inflammation of the airways such as rheumatoid arthritis. The damaged airways are less able to clear mucus and bacteria away, causing recurrent chest infections. The patients cough up mucus and blood, and develop shortness of breath and sometimes respiratory failure. The disease is incurable and although the resulting infections can be treated with antibiotics, resistant bacteria are becoming an increasing problem.

The new research, published in the European Respiratory Journal, used anonymised GP records covering 14 million patients from across the UK to identify those with a diagnosis of bronchiectasis. The research found that bronchiectasis is surprisingly common and becoming more common, especially in older people. The disease affected approximately 0.6% of people aged 70 or over in 2004, but this increased to 1.2% in 2013. The condition was more common in women and among people with higher socio-economic status. Furthermore, the mortality rates in people with bronchiectasis were twice as high as mortality rates in the general population.

“Bronchiectasis is historically associated with untreated chest infections when antibiotics were not readily available,” explains senior author Jeremy Brown, Professor of Respiratory Infection at UCL and consultant at UCLH where he runs a bronchiectasis clinic. “We found that the disease has had a resurgence in recent years, particularly among more well-off members of society. This could be partly down to improved diagnosis in these groups, but whatever the reason we need better treatment options for patients.”

Data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre shows that more than 12,000 people were admitted to hospital in England during 2013/14 with bronchiectasis, most of whom were aged over 60. The study found that 42% of people with bronchiectasis also had asthma and 36% had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). 6.9% of bronchiectasis patients also had HIV, a much higher proportion than expected.

“The high prevalence of bronchiectasis in people with asthma and COPD is an important finding,” explains lead author Dr Jennifer Quint, who carried out the study while at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and UCLH, and now works at Imperial College London. “Whether the diagnosis of bronchiectasis precedes or follows the diagnosis of asthma or COPD is important to investigate next as it may help to guide longer term management in these patients.”

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