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VA Researching for You

Respiratory Health

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the average person takes between around 17,000 to 23,000 breaths a day. For the healthy, this is a simple process. But for millions of people with respiratory problems, breathing is not easy.

Two specific types of respiratory diseases that can restrict breathing are asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways characterized by episodes of breathing problems. While it cannot be cured, its symptoms can be controlled.

COPD is characterized by airflow limitation. The limitation is usually progressive and is associated with an abnormal inflammatory response of the lungs to noxious particles or gases, such as those in cigarette smoke.  Learn more.

VA’s Major Respiratory Health Accomplishments:

  • 1946: Developed and tested effective therapies for tuberculosis through multicenter clinical trials that led to the development of the VA Cooperative Studies Program
  • 1950: Concluded there is "strong circumstantial evidence" linking cigarette smoking with respiratory tract cancers
  • 2013: Found that sleep apnea and poor sleep quality predicted diabetes, independent of other diabetes risk factors or mental health status.
  • 2014: Learned that treatment for pneumonia that included the antibiotic azithromycin (Zithromax) was associated with a significantly lower risk of death and a slightly increased risk of heart attack
  • 2016: Developed a blood test to determine the causes of upper respiratory illness, to help ensure antibiotics are used appropriately

Learn more..

Below is a news story that illustrates VA’s commitment to advancing technology and research initiatives to benefit our nation’s Veterans.

Dr. Achsah Keegan (second from left) and colleagues Dr. Amit Golding, Molly Hritzo, and Dr. Hongjuan Gao are looking at how immune cells respond to house dust mites. The work could yield wider insight on the respiratory problems affecting many Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans. (Photo by Mitch Mirkin)Dr. Achsah Keegan (second from left) and colleagues Dr. Amit Golding, Molly Hritzo, and Dr. Hongjuan Gao are looking at how immune cells respond to house dust mites. The work could yield wider insight on the respiratory problems affecting many Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans. (Photo by Mitch Mirkin)

Some returning Vets are not breathing easy: Could war-zone dust mites be part of the problem?

Don’t let it disturb your sleep tonight, but in a study that got lots of press about seven years ago, British researchers found that the average pillow, after two years of use, is full of nasty microscopic stuff. At least a third of a pillow’s weight, they showed, can consist of live and dead dust mites, their droppings, human skin cells, and bacteria.

Steps to deal with dust mites can be found here. The tiny spider-like creatures don’t bite and don’t spread disease. But they can trigger allergic reactions like a stuffy or runny nose, itchy or watery eyes, and sneezing. They have also been linked to asthma.

A VA research team in Baltimore is trying to get a handle on how exactly dust mites affect the immune system and set off respiratory problems. The study won’t show the extent to which dust mites may have affected troops, but it may lead to solutions to help them going forward.  Read more..

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