American Thoracic Society Journal News Tips for November (First Issue)

November 29, 2001

Sexual activity in patients who require noninvasive mechanical ventilation

The first research project to study sexual activity in patients with chronic respiratory failure who use noninvasive mechanical ventilation, found that slightly over 34 percent of the 208 men and women in the study were sexually active. They averaged 5.4 episodes of intercourse per month, a rate higher than normal controls at 3.8 times per month. The researchers pointed out that the sexually active population among this group was characterized by better lung function, younger age, and living with a spouse or partner. The majority of the 71 sexually active patients were able to have intercourse without using their respirator. Four patients were ventilator-dependent and used a nasal mask during intercourse. Among the noninvasive mechanical ventilation group, the investigators studied the sexual activities of 142 male and 66 female patients. Their average age was over 63. They answered a questionnaire directed at: sexual activity, the percentage who performed masturbation, the frequency of intercourse, and the reasons for sexual inactivity. The comparison data for normal controls came from a survey of 1,498 German- speaking inhabitants of Switzerland. In this group, the males' average age was 62 and the females slightly over 58. Compared with normal subjects, the percentage of sexually active patients in the ventilation group was markedly reduced at 34.1 percent versus 84 percent for the normal controls. The article appears in the first of two November issues of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Allergy risk increased by home use of kerosene

The use of refined fossil fuels, especially kerosene, for cooking and heating increased individual risk of allergy as well as of the symptoms of allergic disease, according to a study performed in Jimma, Ethiopia. The British-led research team believes that exposure to these combustion pollutants could play a major role in the emergence of allergic disease in both developing and developed countries. They identified a strong positive association between allergic skin sensitization and allergic symptoms associated with modern fuels for cooking and heating, especially kerosene use, among the 959 person studies. The researchers' data came from a systematic survey of households in Jimma town and in three remote rural communities in Jimma district. An interviewer administered a questionnaire to all members of the household in a systematic sample from a random starting point. These answers provided data on demography, respiratory and allergic disease symptoms, housing, and various lifestyle variables. Residents of every fourth household were given allergic skin sensitivity tests. The primary outcome variable for this study was allergic skin sensitization as shown by a skin wheal response to the test. The secondary outcomes were questionnaire responses reporting wheezing during the past year, rhinitis symptoms, and eczema symptoms ever and within the past year. The research appears in the first of two issues for November of the American Thoracic Society peer-reviewed American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Impact of viral infection on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbations

Almost 40 percent of acute exacerbations connected with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are associated with respiratory virus infection, according to a research project. COPD is a slowly progressive lung disease characterized by gradual loss of lung function. Over a period of years, cigarette smoking causes an abnormal inflammatory response in the lungs to noxious particles or gasses. Patients have persistent disruption of airflow in and out of the lungs that becomes progressively worse. According to the authors, COPD is associated with frequent exacerbations which add to the illness burden and raise mortality rates. In the year 2000, an estimated 2.88 million people died from this condition worldwide. During the 16-month period of the study, 83 COPD patients, out of 137 who were monitored, had a total of 321 exacerbations for an average of 2.9 exacerbations per patient per year. However, among the 321 exacerbations, only 52 percent were reported and, consequently, sampled for respiratory viruses. Of the viruses found, rhinovirus was the most common, occurring in 58 percent of the viral exacerbations studied. The investigators said that these patients had increased dyspnea (severe breathlessness), cold symptoms, and sore throats associated with their viral exacerbations, plus a prolonged recovery period. It took 13 days to recover from a virally related exacerbation as compared with 6 days for a nonviral case. The researchers note that preventive or early treatment for viral infection in COPD may reduce the severity and frequency of exacerbations. The article appears in the first of two November issues of the American Thoracic Society peer- reviewed American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
For the complete text of these articles, please see the ATS Journal Online Website at For contact information on a specific investigator, to request a complimentary journalist subscription to ATS journal online, or if you would like additional details from postal or e-mail news releases provided only to journalists, contact Cathy Carlomagno at 212-315-6442, by fax on letterhead to 212-315-6455, or by e-mail at

American Thoracic Society

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