Although alpha-1 antitrypsin (A1AT) deficiency represents one of the most common genetically conditioned diseases in the population of Caucasian adult individuals, it is rarely diagnosed. Alpha-1 antitrypsin is an important component of the anti-proteolytic protection in the lungs. Individuals affected by the protein deficiency are exposed to a higher risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or liver diseases.
A case report: A 52-year-old farmer, non-smoker, spraying orchards since the age of 15 years, was admitted to the Department with dyspnea at rest and productive cough. He had a medical history of COPD, congestive heart failure, generalized emphysema of ten years' duration On admission the patient's general condition was satisfactory (fair). Physical examination showed symmetric expiratory wheezing over the upper and lower fields of the lungs with loss of vesicular murmur in the lower fields. Spirometry revealed a severe chronic bronchial obstruction, and an arterial blood gas test showed hypoxemia. Laboratory tests demonstrated an increased concentration of inflammatory markers. High resolution computed tomography (HRCT) of the chest showed evidence of generalized emphysema, bronchiectasis and exacerbation of peribronchial inflammatory changes. Intensive anti-inflammatory, bronchodilator treatment and antibiotic therapy were implemented, which resulted in an optimal improvement of the patient's condition. Based on the whole clinical picture A1AT deficiency was suspected. Alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, MZ phenotype, with 65 mg/dl concentration was diagnosed.
Conclusions: Diagnostic tests for alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency should always be considered in patients with emphysema or symptomatic COPD identified at an early age. In the described case the period between occurrence of clinical signs and establishing the diagnosis was ten years, which proves that there is a strong need to spread knowledge on A1AT among medical professionals. Otherwise, most of the patients will lose their chance of modifying their lifestyle or receiving proper treatment that could prevent the progression of changes in the lungs.
Keywords: MZ phenotype; alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency; generalized emphysema.
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