Bronchiectasis in Central Australia: a young face to an old disease

Respir Med. 2008 Apr;102(4):574-8. doi: 10.1016/j.rmed.2007.11.007. Epub 2007 Dec 20.


Background: Bronchiectasis remains a significant cause of morbidity among specific populations world wide, including many indigenous groups. Data on prevalence in Australian adults are lacking. Indigenous children in Central Australia have the highest rates of bronchiectasis in the world. Outcomes for these individuals after they become adults are not currently available.

Methods: We performed a retrospective case review of the presentation and likely aetiology of adult patients presenting to the Alice Springs Hospital with a primary diagnosis of bronchiectasis.

Results: Sixty-one patients and 166 admissions were identified. Fifty-nine patients were indigenous (97%). Mean age was 42+/-15 years. Forty-three patients (70%) had past histories notable for recurrent respiratory tract infections. No predisposing factors could be identified in 11 patients (18%). Human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) serology was positive in 72% of those studied. Eight (13%) patients died during the study period.

Conclusion: Bronchiectasis remains a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in Central Australia, with notably different patient characteristics and disease aetiology to other published cohorts. Recurrent respiratory infection is the major cause of illness. Associated factors include indigenous ethnicity, HTLV-1 positivity and childhood in a remote region.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Bronchiectasis / epidemiology*
  • Bronchiectasis / ethnology
  • Bronchiectasis / virology
  • Female
  • HTLV-I Infections / complications
  • Human T-lymphotropic virus 1
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Morbidity
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
  • Northern Territory
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Rural Population
  • Sex Distribution
  • Smoking
  • Spirometry