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Virus Unlikely to Advance Deadly Lung Disease: Study
Date:2/25/2011

FRIDAY, Feb. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Most patients struggling with a progressive and fatal form of lung disease called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis do not risk a worsening of their condition as a result of exposure to a viral infection, new research indicates.

The finding contradicts prior investigations that had suggested viral infections might rapidly advance disease in patients diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

"The results of this study suggest that the majority of cases of acute exacerbation of IPF are not due to viral infection," study author Dr. Harold Collard, director of the Interstitial Lung Disease Program at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), said in a news release from the American Thoracic Society.

Collard and colleagues from the United States, Korea and Japan report their observations online in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

The authors noted that IPF is characterized by the thickening and scarring of the lungs, and most often affects men and women in their 50s, 60s and 70s.

The stiffening of lung tissue that occurs in those with the disease ultimately compromises respiratory function. In some cases, the ongoing and debilitating process unfolds slowly. However, in others, a more aggressive process takes hold in the form of an "acute" phase with more rapid consequences.

To see whether or not a viral infection might trigger the onset of this acute process, between 2006 and 2009, Collard's team focused on 43 patients from two health facilities, all of whom had already been diagnosed with the harsher and speedier form of the disease. For comparison, 69 patients from a different medical center were also included, all of whom were diagnosed with either the slower-moving ("stable") form of IPF or, alternatively, an acute lung injury.

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