As part of a recently launched study funded by a
$7 million grant from the Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism branch of
the National Institutes of Health, School of Medicine researchers
are working to combat acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)
and its association with chronic alcohol abuse. The five-year study
is a collaboration with the Emory Alcohol and Lung Biology Center.
According to the American Lung Association, every year as many as
150,000 people in the United States develop ARDS, a life-threatening
condition in which inflammation of the lungs and accumulation of
fluid in the air sacs leads to low blood-oxygen levels. Of those
individuals diagnosed, the mortality rate is nearly 50 percent.
The condition is commonly caused by any major lung inflammation
or injury. Other common causes include pneumonia, septic shock,
trauma, aspiration of gastric contents or chemical inhalation. Marc
Moss, associate professor of medicine and section director of pulmonary,
allergy and critical care at Grady Hospital, said ARDS also is associated
with a history of chronic alcohol abuse. Moss serves as principal
investigator of the patient-oriented component of the study.
The $7 million grant awarded in February 2003 is shared by investigators
in medicine, physiology and pediatrics. The inpatient study focuses
on critically ill patients at Grady, Crawford Long, Emory Hospital
and the V.A. Medical Center.
David Guidot, associate professor of medicine at the V.A. and director
of the Alcohol and Lung Biology Center, is the studys principal
investigator. Lou Ann Brown, associate professor of pediatrics,
directs the scientific aspect of the center.
Moss and his colleagues are examining whether alcoholism predisposes
a person to factors that contribute to ARDS. A study published in
the Journal of the American Medical Association several years ago
identified patients with a history of chronic alcohol abuse who
also had an increased incidence and severity for developing ARDS.
Moss previous research reveals that patients with evidence
of chronic alcohol abuse were found to have a slightly higher incidence
of respiratory complications compared with those trauma patients
with no evidence of chronic alcohol abuse.
Were hoping to determine the mechanism of exactly what
alcohol does to affect lung function and lung structure so that
when someone becomes acutely ill, they go on to develop ARDS,
Moss said. We also want to identify a predictive marker for
the development of ARDS, especially in people who have a history
of chronic alcohol abuse, and better understand the effects of chronic
alcohol abuse on neuromuscular dysfunction and quality of life in