New ICU drug could cut lung injuries

Sydney: Fatal lung injuries caused by ventilators in intensive care units (ICUs) may soon be a thing of the past, thanks to a new drug being developed by researchers.

Alison Elder, doctoral candidate in critical care medicine at Flinders University, and colleagues found the drug feG may be able to both prevent and effectively treat ventilator-induced lung injury.

"Ventilators are essential to keep people breathing in intensive care, but can also cause deadly lung damage by forcefully stretching the delicate tissues of the lung," Elder said.

Stretching the lung tissue triggers our immune system to release chemicals that can result in more tissue damage, impaired oxygen exchange and fluid accumulation, leading to death.

"By significantly reducing lung damage and improving respiratory function, this drug could reduce patient mortality in the intensive care unit.

"The drug works in three ways: it decreases the infiltration of the inflammatory cells into the lung; it decreases their activation; and it encourages resolution of the injury within the lung," Elder said, according to a Flinder`s statement.

Mortality rates for patients with acute lung injury increase from 24 percent for patients in the 15-19 age group up to 60 percent for patients above the age of 85, and it is also a significant financial burden for the health system.

The drug, which is based on a natural substance found in the salivary glands of rats, is currently being tested for treating asthma in Phase 1 trials by collaborators in Canada.

"Since patient safety testing has already begun in the asthma study, we are hoping to be in a position to start clinical trials here in Adelaide within the next few years," added Elder.


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