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CHEST: Faster Lung Function Decline in Some NYC Rescuers

Test in development may allow early diagnosis of enzyme deficiency

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 25 (HealthDay News) -- After the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, rescuers deficient in the alpha-1 antitrypsin (A1AT) protein had faster declines in lung function over a four-year period, but a test in development may allow earlier diagnosis of A1AT deficiency, according to two studies presented at CHEST 2006, the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians in Salt Lake City.

In the first study, Gisela Banauch, M.D., from Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, and colleagues tested the lung function of 90 World Trade Center rescue workers annually from 2001 to 2005, and in 2005 offered testing for A1AT deficiency. They found that the 11 workers who had moderate or severe A1AT deficiency also had more rapid declines in lung function.

In the second study, Jim Carney, Ph.D., from British Biocell International in Cardiff, U.K., and colleagues presented preliminary data on a test currently in development to measure A1AT levels in plasma. The test has shown negative results with normal plasma and positive results with A1AT-deficient plasma.

"Early and proper diagnosis of A1AT deficiency is vital to managing and treating this chronic lung and liver disorder," Carney explained in a statement. "However, the most important issue associated with timely screening for A1AT is increased awareness among primary care physicians and pulmonologists."

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