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Can an over-the-counter medication for cold sores help in the fight against COPD? An FAQ with Dr. Dermot Linden

13 Dec
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Investing in high-quality, ground-breaking local research is at the heart of what we do, and we are dedicated to advancing the prevention, treatment and care of chest, heart and stroke conditions within Northern Ireland. We have invested almost £9 million into research in local universities and hospitals since 1994, funding treatments, medications, therapies, rehabilitation programmes and cures.

This year we were delighted to fund a piece of research being conducted by Dr. Dermot Linden at Queen’s University Belfast which is asking the question, can an over-the-counter medication for cold sores help in the fight against COPD?

What is this study about?

COPD is a major cause of illness and death in Northern Ireland. Almost 43,000 people are registered with their GP as having COPD - and there could be more.

This study aims to test whether Valaciclovir, a type of cold sore medication, could be a new therapy for sufferers of COPD.

We have used it to successfully treat EpsteinBarr Virus (EBV) - research which NICHS previously funded - which we also detected at high levels in the lungs of people with COPD.

How will you do it?

We hope to carry out a bigger study in the future, testing the medication on larger numbers of people, and this study will help us progress towards that.

What difference do you think your research could make?

Doing this smaller scale lab study, will help us understand how cells in the lungs respond to Valaciclovir, and whether this medication has the potential to be a future treatment for COPD. We can then use the results to plan a larger study. A larger study will allow to establish with more confidence that Valaciclovir is an effective treatment.

Finding an effective treatment for COPD is an obvious priority. Inhalers for COPD are also one of the costliest medications. If we can show that an over the counter medication is effective in treating COPD, not only will this be good for people living with the condition, but it will be good for the public purse. This research is the lastest in a series of research NICHS have funded this team to carry out - exploring the role Epstein Barr virus has in the development of COPD, and what whether interfons worsen COPD symptoms.