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Current projects

Introduction

We have particular expertise in design and analysis of occupational and environmental epidemiological surveys

In addition to our specific research projects, we provide assistance with:

  • statistical design
  • data management
  • analysis
  • presentation of results
  • dissemination of findings

We also have a well-stablished, highly thought of teaching programme.


UNDERSTANDING THE AETIOLOGY OF CHRONIC HYPERSENSITVITY PNEUMONITIS (CHP)

Jo Feary and Paul Cullinan are developing a protocol for a multi-centre, case-control study of the aetiology of CHP; at present 50% or more of cases have no identified cause.  The focus will be on indoor mould exposures but other exposures, and genetic determinants, will also be considered.

Jo Feary is currently conducting pilot work which includes ‘fungome’ analyses of bronchoalveolar lavage samples for patients with CHP.


IDIOPATHIC PULMONARY FIBROSIS JOB EXPOSURE STUDY (IPF JES)

IPF JES is a UK based multi-centre case-control study that aims to find out if job exposures are an under-recognized cause of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). 

Men with IPF and hospital controls are being interviewed to collect information about previous job exposures; blood is drawn to investigate genetic susceptibility.

The study is supervised by Prof Paul Cullinan and funded by a Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Training Fellowship awarded to Dr Carl Reynolds.  See www.ipfjes.org for further information. 


INDIVIDUALLY VENTILATED CAGES IN LABORATORY ANIMAL FACILITIES AND THE PREVENTION OF LABORATORY ANIMAL ALLERGY: A PROOF OF CONCEPT STUDY

The SPIRAL (Safe Practice in Reducing Allergy in Laboratories) study is funded by an NIHR post-doctoral fellowship for Dr Johanna Feary.  The project is designed to determine if the introduction of individual ventilated cages has resulted in a significant reduction in the risk of laboratory animal allergy. We have recruited some of the largest and most prestigious research institutions in and around London with whom we have a close clinical and /or academic relationship. The study started in 2014 and recruitment (n=750) finished in 2017.  Analyses are underway.


THE CAUSES OF OCCUPATIONAL CHRONIC OBSTRUCTIVE PULMONARY DISEASE (COPD) IN THE UK

  • Paul Cullinan, Lesley Rushton (School of Public Health, Imperial College), Debbie Jarvis (National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College), Sara De Matteis, Jon Ayres (University of Birmingham), David Fishwick (Health and Safety Laboratory, Buxton, Derbyshire/Northern General Hospital, Sheffield), Steven Sadhra (University of Birmingham).

Occupational hazards are important and preventable causes of COPD worldwide. However the list of occupations and underlying specific exposures responsible for the increased risk is still unknown. The overarching goal of the HSE-COPD study is to identify the occupational causes of COPD and related burden in the UK general population in order to implement focused preventive strategies at workplace.

This work takes place within the UK Biobank study, a UK population-based cohort including half a million subjects.

The specific goals achieved so far are:

  1. Identification of occupations associated with COPD risk using a cross-sectional analysis (see this paper)
  2. Development of a new efficient web-based tool (OSCAR) to collect and code lifetime job-histories (see this paper)
  3. Development of a new job-exposure-matrix (ACE-JEM) to estimate the exposure to specific agents associated with increased COPD risk (see this paper)
  4. Estimation of the work-related COPD burden in the UK general population (publications pending)

Future steps are:

  1. Analysis of the longitudinal lifetime job-histories collected and coded using OSCAR to identify the occupations at increased COPD risk
  2. Application of the new ACE-JEM to both the cross-sectional and longitudinal data in order to identify the specific agents responsible of the increased COPD risk

DEVELOPING LABORATORY METHODS TO IDENTIFY AIRBORNE ALLERGENS PRESENT IN AMBIENT AIR POLLUTION

This project is focused on attempting to identify unknown allergens present in air pollution, which may contribute to life-threatening asthma exacerbations. Using recent advances in biomedical laboratory science, allergens are detected by immunological techniques, and protein sequences identified with mass spectrometry at King’s College London. This project forms the basis of a PhD in public health research but also contributes towards increasing our understanding of allergens in occupational and environmental allergic disease mechanisms.


THE INFLUENCE OF AGRICULTURAL EXPOSURES ON RESPIRATORY HEALTH WITH A SPECIFIC FOCUS ON LOW- AND MIDDLE-INCOME COUNTRIES

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. While smoking is the main cause of the disease, the first findings of the multinational BOLD study found that low income countries with a low smoking prevalence are prone to higher than expected "COPD" mortality. As farming is a common occupation in developing countries and has been associated with chronic lung disease, farming exposures, particularly to pesticides, could be an important cause of chronic lung disease in these countries.

To test the relationship between chronic lung disease and agricultural exposures with a specific focus on low- and middle-income settings, this PhD project will:

  • undertake a systematic review of the association between pesticide exposure and lung function
  • develop a new instrument for assessing risks to respiratory health in farming settings
  • analyse occupational effects on lung function in the BOLD study
  • conduct a cross-sectional survey of farming communities in north Thailand in the remaining 18 to 24 months.

MULTITEX RCT

The MultiTex RCT study (Multifaceted intervention package for protection against cotton dust exposure among textile workers – a cluster randomized controlled trial), run by Asaad Nafees, aims to determine the effectiveness of an intervention package for reducing cotton dust levels in textile mills and improving the respiratory health of workers.

Measurements for cotton dust level will be taken, in addition to interviews and spirometry for approximately 1700 workers across 28 textile mills in Karachi, Pakistan. Baseline assessment will be followed by the implementation of the intervention in the intervention arm; comprising occupational health training of workers and managers and strategies for reducing dust exposure, including wet mopping and provision of facemasks. Key outcome measures including dust levels and lung function will be assessed at each follow-up over a period of 2 years.    



FIRE SERVICE AUDIT

Jo and Bernadette are currently undertaking a pre-employment assessment of fire service applicants with a history of asthma. Such individuals are referred to our specialist clinic for assessment of their asthma status and suitability for work as a firefighter. Follow-up questionnaires determine the outcome of their application, current asthma control and treatment.


FOLLOW–UP STUDY ON PATIENTS DIAGNOSED WITH OCCUPATIONAL ASTHMA OR RHINITIS

All patients diagnosed with occupational asthma or rhinitis in our clinic are contacted 12 months later to find out how their condition has affected their life. Key points of enquiry are symptom improvement, changes to workplace exposures, effect on career, income and quality of life, satisfaction with their care, and how fairly they were treated by their employer. The study is on-going.


ADVANCE

ADVANCE (ArmeD SerVices TrAuma RehabilitatioN OutComE) is a 20-year study investigating the long-term medical and psychosocial outcomes of UK battlefield casualties from Afghanistan (2003-2014).  The study also supports these injured men during and after their transition into civilian life.  

The study recently relocated to Stanford Hall, Leicestershire from its previous site, the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre (DMRC) at Headley Court near Epsom. 

ADVANCE receives financial support from Help for Heroes, the MOD and HM Treasury (via the Libor Fund). 

The principle Investigators are as follows:

  • Gp Capt Alex Bennett – MSK disease & rehabilitation: DMRC Headley Court
  • Lt Col (rtd.) Christopher Boos – CVD: Bournemouth University
  • Prof Paul Cullinan – respiratory disease & epidemiology: Imperial College London
  • Prof Anthony Bull – bioengineering: Imperial College London
  • Prof Nicola Fear - mental health & epidemiology: King’s College London

The Study’s Project Managers are Melanie Chesnokov and Aino-Maija Maskuniitty. 

Further details on ADVANCE can be seen here.

Details on a seminar given by Melanie Chesnokov to our department on 13 December 2017 can be seen here


ASTHMA IN ASHFORD

Now part of STELAR (Study Team for Early Life Asthma Research)

  • Paul Cullinan, Meinir Jones, Susie Schofield, Silvia Colicino, Cosetta Minelli (National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College), Angela Simpson (University of Manchester), Adnan Custovic (University of Manchester)

The Ashford study is a longitudinal study and aims at investigating asthma and other allergic disorders, their development during children’s lives and the effect of risk factors on these conditions. The study recruited pregnant women who gave birth to 642 infants born in Ashford, Kent between 1992 and 1993. Environmental measurements were collected from the babies' homes soon after birth. Additional data were collected at each annual visit along with health information, such as wheezing and other respiratory symptoms, other allergies and family history (including skin prick tests for the parents).

In 2013, the Ashford cohort joined the Study Team for Early Life Asthma Research (STELAR) consortium, a collaborative network of all asthma UK birth cohorts (ALSPAC, MAAS, SEATON and IoW), the North West Institute for Bio-Health Informatics and Microsoft Research Cambridge.


THE CYSTIC FIBROSIS EPIDEMIOLOGICAL NETWORK (CF-EpiNet)

  • Danielle Edwards, Olga Archangelidi, Siobhan Carr (Royal Brompton Hospital), Diana Bilton, Debbie Jarvis, David Taylor Robinson (Liverpool University), Jenny Whitty (University of East Anglia), Ruth Keogh (LSHTM), Sanja Stanojevic (University of Toronto), Paul Cullinan

CF-EpiNet: Harnessing Data to Improve Lives project has four main objectives:

  1. To develop appropriate methods to link, securely store and analyse information held within the UK CF Registry with other UK data administrative sources.
  2. To apply advanced statistical techniques appropriate for analysis of longitudinal outcome data in CF to assess causal pathways and therapeutic impacts.
  3. To identify social and other risk factors at critical time points that are associated with and predict the impact of disease on patients’ lives, disease progression and survival.
  4. To improve the evidence available to inform economic models and decisions about appropriate CF care.

The project uses data of cystic fibrosis patients that has been collected through:1) The UK CF Registry that records CF patients’ clinical, demographic and treatment data on the day of their annual reviews at CF clinics in UK, 2) an online survey on Quality of Life of CF patients (Living with Cystic Fibrosis study) that started in November 2016. The project started in 2015 and is due to finish in 2019.