The Importance of Reference Centers and Registries for Rare Diseases: The Example of Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency

COPD. 2020 Aug;17(4):346-354. doi: 10.1080/15412555.2020.1795824.


Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AATD) is a rare and underdiagnosed disease that is associated with the development of liver disease in adults and children and pulmonary emphysema in adults. Several studies have shown that there is limited knowledge about the disease and its diagnosis among health care providers, and there is an important inequity in the access to specialized care and appropriate treatment across Europe. The European Commision and the European Respiratory Society (ERS) recommend that the care of patients with AATD must be organized in reference centers at national or regional levels. These reference centers must provide optimal clinical care in terms of adequate diagnostic techniques, such as phenotyping and genotyping, and ensure access to treatment according to guidelines. Reference centers should also provide continuous medical education for health care professionals, genetic counseling, collaboration with patient associations and promote collaborative research and clinical trials with new and existing treatments for the disease. These centers must have a registry of their activity and collaborate with large, international, multicenter registries, such as the European Alpha-1 antitrypsin Deficiency Research Collaboration (EARCO) international registry, which is endorsed by the ERS, and aims to recruit up to 3,000 patients over a period of three years and prospectively follow them to better understand the natural history of the disease and the impact of different treatments on outcomes in a real life setting. International collaboration and standardized collection of high-quality prospective data will provide new insights into the clinical manifestations and prognosis of AATD.

Keywords: alpha-1 antitrypsin; augmentation therapy; registries.