An accumulation of white blood cells known as neutrophil in patients’ lungs may indicate a higher death risk, according to researchers at the University of Cincinnati.

In a new study, increased numbers of these cells were associated with a 30% increased risk of death in the first year following diagnosis with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

IPF, which is an interstitial lung disease (ILD), affects the thick tissue of lung. It is the most common form of ILD, affecting about 128,000 people in the United States. An estimated 48,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. The study is featured in the January issue of Chest.