National Targeted Detection Programme

National Alpha-1 Targeted Detection Programme

Alpha-1 Foundation Ireland is dedicated to increasing diagnosis, raising awareness and improving the treatment of Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (Alpha-1). Alpha-1 is a common inherited condition but is massively under-diagnosed. It affects over 250,000 on the island of Ireland (most common types are ZZ, MZ and SZ), with 3,000 of these having severe deficiency (ZZ type). Alpha-1 can lead to severe lung, liver and rarely skin disease. Most people present in their 40s and 50s with early-onset emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). A smaller group presents with liver disease in the first year of life and may require liver transplantation.

Early diagnosis is vital for health and welfare of our patients, and this is our main objective. The majority of people with Alpha-1 do not know they have the condition and many are misdiagnosed with COPD or asthma. For example, the average Alpha-1 patient in the US sees 5 doctors over 7 years to reach a correct diagnosis.  The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends the following groups for screening:

  • All COPD patients
  • All non-responsive asthmatics
  • All cryptogenic liver disease patients
  • All first-degree relatives of known Alphas
  • People with a rare skin condition called panniculitis
  • People with vasculitis
  • Individuals with reduced blood levels of AAT

Diagnostic Services Provided

In 2004 the Alpha-1 Foundation Ireland was successful in securing funding from the HSE to set up a national targeted detection programme for AATD. This was the first national detection programme for AATD anywhere in the world and we applaud the HSE for the foresight in funding this initiative.

There are 3 main diagnostic services we provide for the diagnosis of Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency:

  • Phenotyping
  • Genotyping
  • Quantification of serum AAT

There are also a range of ancillary services provided such as patient advice and support, referral to the specialist Alpha-1 clinic at the national centre of expertise for AATD at Beaumont Hospital (http://www.beaumont.ie/index.jsp?p=103&n=142&a=356), opportunities to enrol in clinical trials, educational services, and access to the Alpha-1 patient support group.

Who is Eligible to Access our Services?

Healthcare professionals who are involved in the treatment, care and management of the patient groups specified in the World Health Organisation guidelines for screening presented above. These include:

  • Hospital laboratories
  • Consultant respiratory physicians
  • GPs
  • Research nurses
  • Physiotherapists
  • Smoking cessation officers

More Information

For further details on how to arrange a simple blood test for Alpha-1 please contact:

Alpha-1 Foundation Ireland, RCSI Education & Research Centre, Beaumont Hospital, Dublin 9.

Phone: 01-8093871 or 01-8093876.  Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.