Pulmonary alveolar proteinosis



Pulmonary alveolar proteinosis (PAP) is a rare lung disease in which an abnormal accumulation of pulmonary surfactant occurs within the alveoli (microscopic air sacs in the lung), interfering with the lungs' ability to exchange oxygen from the air, and carbon dioxide from the blood. PAP can occur in a primary form or secondarily in the settings of certain cancers (such as myeloid leukemia), lung infections, or environmental exposure to dusts or chemicals. Rare familial forms have also been recognized, suggesting a genetic component in those cases.

Symptoms - Pulmonary alveolar proteinosis

The signs and symptoms of PAP include shortness of breath, a cough, low grade fever, and weight loss.

The clinical course of PAP is unpredictable. Spontaneous remission is recognized, and some patients have stable symptoms. Death may occur due to the progression of PAP or of any underlying associated disease. Individuals with PAP are more vulnerable to lung infections such as bacterial pneumonia, mycobacterium avium-intracellulare infection, or a fungal infection.

Causes - Pulmonary alveolar proteinosis

Although the cause of PAP is not entirely understood, a major breakthrough in the understanding of the cause of the disease came by the chance observation that mice bred for experimental study to lack a hematologic growth factor known as granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF) developed a pulmonary syndrome of abnormal surfactant accumulation resembling human PAP.

The implications of this finding are still being explored, but significant progress was reported in February 2007. Researchers in that report discussed the presence of anti-GM-CSF autoantibodies in patients with PAP, and duplicated that syndrome with the infusion of these autoantibodies into mice.

Prevention - Pulmonary alveolar proteinosis

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Diagnosis - Pulmonary alveolar proteinosis

Chest x-rays of affected individuals typically reveal nonspecific alveolar opacities. Diagnosis is generally made by surgical or endoscopic biopsy of the lung, revealing the distinctive pathologic finding. The current gold standard of PAP diagnosis involves histopathological examination of alveolar specimens obtained from bronchoalveolar lavage and transbronchial lung biopsy.

Microscopically, the distal air spaces are filled with a granular, eosinophilic material that is positive with the PAS stain and the PAS diastase stain. The main histomorphologic differential diagnosis is pulmonary edema, which does not have dense bodies.

An ELISA to measure antibodies against GM-CSF has been validated for routine clinical diagnosis of autoimmune PAP.

Prognosis - Pulmonary alveolar proteinosis

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Treatment - Pulmonary alveolar proteinosis

The first advance in the treatment of pulmonary alveolar proteinosis came in November 1960, when Dr. Jose Ramirez-Rivera at the Veterans' Administration Hospital in Baltimore applied repeated "segmental flooding" as a means of physically removing the accumulated alveolar material.

The standard treatment for PAP is whole-lung lavage, in which the lung is filled with sterile fluid with subsequent removal of the fluid along with the abnormal surfactant material. This is generally effective at improving PAP symptoms, often for a prolonged period of time. Since the mouse discovery noted above, the use of GM-CSF injections has also been attempted, with variable success. Lung transplantation can be performed in refractory cases.

Resources - Pulmonary alveolar proteinosis

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