New study shows reduced effectiveness of symptom-reliever medication in flare-ups linked to cigarette smoking and infection with viruses in patients with COPD.

One of the most common reliever drugs used to treat flare-ups of the common lung disease known as COPD is salbutamol, a ?2-adrenoceptor agonist. This drug, which is also used to treat asthma, works by dilating a patients airways making it easier for them to breathe. The effectiveness of drugs such as salbutamol in cigarette smoke-induced lung diseases such as COPD is limited. To date, the mechanisms involved in loss of responsiveness to therapy remain poorly understood.

The study assessed sections of lung exposed to cigarette smoke and a version of the influenza A virus. Overall, the researchers found that the lung tissue exposed to cigarette smoke and viral infection was less responsive to salbutamol than tissue that was not.

Commenting on the research, lead author Dr Chantal Donovan, from Monash University in Victoria, Australia, said: “By understanding the mechanisms responsible for reduced sensitivity to current bronchodilators, we can then design alternative, more efficacious agents to help treat people with COPD, especially during a viral exacerbation”.

The researchers hope that their technique will help identify new targets that can be exploited therapeutically to help patients with COPD who do not respond to current therapy.

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