Obstacles to early diagnosis and treatment of alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency: current perspectives

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Colleges, School and Institutes


Abstract: This review summarizes the current research and outlooks regarding the obstacles to diagnosing and treating early alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency (AATD). It draws on prior systematic reviews and expert surveys to discover precisely what difficulties exist in early diagnosis and treatment of AATD and elucidate potential solutions to ease these difficulties.
The perceived rarity of AATD may translate to a condition poorly understood by primary care physicians, and even many respiratory physicians, which results in opportunities for diagnosis being missed, especially in mild or asymptomatic patients. There are diagnostic techniques involving biomarkers and home testing methods which could improve the rate of early diagnosis. With respect to treatment AATD is involves treating two separate pathologies, lung disease and liver disease. The only specific AATD treatment, augmentation therapy, has proven ability in treating lung disease but not liver disease.
Alpha-1-antitrypsin (AAT) synthesised in the liver can form damaging polymers that also result in reduced circulating AAT levels and whilst liver transplantation is used to effectively treat AATD it is inappropriate in early disease. Novel therapeutic areas such as gene editing and increasing autophagy are therefore being researched as future treatments. Ultimately diagnosis and treatment are intrinsically linked in AATD with earlier diagnosis leading to better treatment option and thus better patient outcomes.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1243—1255
Number of pages13
JournalTherapeutics and Clinical Risk Management
Early online date16 Dec 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Dec 2020


  • emphysema, cirrhosis, diagnostic screening programs, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease