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Researchers investigating an inhaled form of the compound glutathione have found it to effectively treat patients with cystic fibrosis. Under normal circumstances, the lung cells secrete a peptide known as glutathione; because this secretion is impaired in patients with cystic fibrosis, researchers believe the lack of glutathione may play an important part in the chronic inflammation and infection that occur with cystic fibrosis. While previous studies have investigated inhaled glutathione, this is the first to compare this treatment with an inactive placebo, as well as to include a higher dose over a longer period of time. The study, published in a recent issue of Chest, included 19 patients with cystic fibrosis randomized to receive either placebo or inhaled glutathione for 8 weeks. Patients in the glutathione group had an increased peak expiratory flow, while the placebo group experienced a decrease. Both groups had similar frequency and type of side effects. Dr. Brian J. Day of the National Jewish Medical and Research Center suggested in a related editorial that these results indicate the need for a large, multicenter trial. He notes that glutathione deficiency has been linked to other lung diseases and therefore may have a broader application.
Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.