Pulmonary fibrosis asbestos link found

Many cases of a common lung disease that were assumed to be of no known cause are in fact the result of exposure to asbestos, UK scientists believe. Researchers from Imperial College London found a correlation between death rates in England and Wales from the known asbestos-related conditions asbestosis and mesothelioma and from “idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis” (IPF).

Graphic: Ned Jolliffe

Many cases of a common lung disease that were assumed to be of no known cause are in fact the result of exposure to asbestos, scientists believe.
Researchers from Imperial College London found a correlation between death rates in England and Wales from the known asbestos-related conditions asbestosis and mesothelioma and from “idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis” (IPF).

In findings presented to the European Respiratory Society (ERS) international congress in Munich, Germany, they warn that at present people with a history of asbestos exposure may be missing out on appropriate care, as they are not currently able to access new treatments for IPF.

According to the researchers, asbestosis is the name given to the lung fibrosis developed by people with a known history of exposure to asbestos; IPF is an identical condition, just without the asbestos association being made. Their analysis of UK Office of National Statistics data revealed national and regional correlations between the three diseases.

This supports the theory that a proportion of IPF cases are due to “unknown” exposure to asbestos. They also identified high rates of IPF deaths in particular regions in the North West and South East of England with a history of shipyard work and potential exposure to asbestos dust.

Lead researcher Dr Carl Reynolds from Imperial College London said: “The findings are consistent with the hypothesis that a proportion of IPF cases are likely to be caused by unknown exposure to asbestos. More research is needed in this area, particularly as patients known to have asbestos exposure are not currently considered to be candidates for new treatments for IPF and this may be inappropriate.”