Tasmanian Dr Sukhwinder Sohal to research asthma-COPD overlap syndrome in state’s North West

05 Dec 2018

Jessica Willard – The Examiner, Launceston

However, a new study by Tasmanian researcher Dr Sukhwinder Sohal, aims to identify the prevalence and burden of ACOS in Tasmania’s North West.

While asthma and COPD are traditionally characterised as separate diseases, Dr Sohal said many patients often presented with symptoms of both – leading to incorrect diagnosis and treatment.

Through the project, Dr Sohal aims to identify individuals with a history of smoking and asthma, and work out how many fit into the ACOS sub-group.

“It is likely that ACOS is consistently misdiagnosed and so sub-optimally managed as ‘only’ asthma or COPD,” he said.

“There are still no set guidelines to diagnose or manage it and no drug trials have ever been done on this.

“Better management is likely to decrease the burden on individuals in the health system, and will inform clinical practice.”

The head of the University of Tasmania’s respiratory immunopathology research group, Dr Sohal was one of eight recipients recently announced for the Clifford Craig Foundation’s 2019 medical research grants.

Building on his existing research into idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, Dr Sohal will collect lung tissue samples and lung function tests, in an effort to further understand the COPD disease process.

The project will also utilise resources at a newly established lung function laboratory at the North-West Regional Hospital.

With some of the highest rates of COPD and asthma in the country, particularly in the state’s North West, Dr Sohal said Tasmania was the perfect setting for further ACOS research.

“The way the medicine is going at the moment, the blanket treatment is slowly disappearing and its leaning towards more personalised, tailored medicine,” he said.

“To understand that, we need to look at the disease more closely.

“For the first time will demonstrate the prevalence of ACOS in this population.

“While Europe and America have started to provide prevalence rates, no or very little information is available from Australia.”