Alpha-1 antitrypsin is an important protein which everyone has in their blood. It is produced by the liver, released into the bloodstream and then travels to the lungs. Once inside the lungs it provides protection from the harmful effects of infections and harmful irritants, particularly tobacco smoke and other inhaled substances such as gases and vapours. In addition to protecting the lungs, alpha-1 antitrypsin helps to control inflammation throughout the entire body.
Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (Alpha-1 for short) is a genetic condition where the body does not produce enough of this important protein. People born with Alpha-1 can develop lung, liver, or in rare cases skin problems. However, there are positive steps people with Alpha-1 can take to reduce the risk of any health problems developing, for example the complete avoidance of cigarette smoke and any exposure to gases, fumes or dust while at work.
Ireland has one of the highest rates of Alpha-1 in the world. 1 in 25 Irish people carry the gene that causes Alpha-1. For more information on the high prevalence of Alpha-1 in Ireland, click here.
For more detailed information on Alpha-1 please click on the excellent leaflet to the right from our friends in the US Alpha-1 Foundation.