A collaboration between Irish and US researchers has found that one in 25 people in Ireland have an increased risk of developing a lung disease, due to a number of inherited genes and exposure to cigarette smoke.
The research shows a link between people who have inherited a combination of one normal and one abnormal Alpha-1 antitrypsin gene and an increased risk of developing the lung condition chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
The researchers are from the Alpha One Foundation, the Royal College of Surgeons and Harvard University.
The study is published in this month's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
Dr Gerry McElvaney, Professor of Medicine at the RCSI, said that if people know they have a genetic predisposition to developing COPD, it allows intervention at an earlier age, encourages smoking cessation and prevents further decline in lung function in a disease that is otherwise preventable.
He said it also allows an opportunity for other family members to get tested for Alpha-1.