Large study sheds light on bronchiectasis in Europe

A summary of research published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

Findings from the largest bronchiectasis study to date were published last month (24 April 2023). The findings will help us to understand the condition and how it affects people.

Results came from the EMBARC (European Multicentre Bronchiectasis Audit and Research Collaboration) network. ERS and ELF support this network, which encourages research into non-cystic fibrosis bronchiectasis.


What did the study look at?

16,963 people took part in the study. Information was collected on their health and treatment since 2015. This included hospital visits and the number of flare ups (exacerbations) they had.


What do the results show?

Key findings include:

  • People with bronchiectasis often have other conditions. 31 people in every 100 had asthma while 25 people in every 100 had COPD.
  • 38 in every 100 people had no known cause for their bronchiectasis. The most common cause was that bronchiectasis developed after a severe infection. There was a big difference in this between countries. Severe infection was more likely to be the cause for people in Eastern and Central Europe compared to people in Western and Southern Europe.
  • There were differences in the type of bacteria that caused lung infections. Bacteria known as Pseudomonas aeruginosa was the cause of more than half the cases in Southern Europe (Spain, Italy, Greece). In Northern and Western European countries, bacteria known as Haemophilus influenzae was common and Pseudomonas less common. The researchers did not know why this was the case.
  • Bronchiectasis was much more severe in Central and Eastern Europe.
  • Lots of different treatments exist for bronchiectasis. More than half of patients used inhalers containing a steroid. More than 1 in 5 patients used long term antibiotics. The treatment given was often dependent on which country a person lived in. People in Central and Eastern Europe were less likely to receive almost all the treatments available.
  • People living in Central and Eastern Europe were more likely to have chest infections and to need hospital treatment compared to people in other countries. People in Northern and Western Europe had the best outcomes with the lowest flare up rates.


Why is this important?

This is the largest published study of bronchiectasis to date. It helps us understand how the condition affects people and sheds light on the causes and treatments available. The authors believe that testing could help us understand more about the causes of bronchiectasis. Research into why some bacteria are less common in Northern Europe could find ways to prevent infections elsewhere. Future work should also focus on improving diagnosis and treatment in Central and Eastern Europe.


Read the original research paper:

Bronchiectasis in Europe: data on disease characteristics from the European Bronchiectasis registry (EMBARC)

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