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Lung Alerts: promoting education and encouraging new authors
  1. Angshu Bhowmik1,
  2. Jenni Quint2
  1. 1Homerton Hospital, London, UK
  2. 2Department of Academic Respiratory Medicine, Royal Free and University College Medical School, Royal Free Hospital, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Angshu Bhowmik, Homerton Hospital, Homerton Row, London E9 6SR, UK; a.bhowmik{at}

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Lung Alerts were introduced by Wisia Wedzicha, Editor-in-Chief in 2003 to increase the educational content of the journal. The aim was to commission brief summaries of papers on respiratory topics published in non-respiratory journals, thereby attracting a broader interest particularly among doctors in training. It was also intended to allow readers to keep abreast of publications in journals to which Respiratory Specialists are less likely to subscribe.

At the time of writing, 372 Lung Alerts have so far been published from 2003 until June 2010 at an average of 4.25 per month. A further 15 are in press.

Of the 387 Lung Alerts we have edited, looking at contributors from a regional perspective, the largest proportion (44%) were from London and the Kent, Surrey and Sussex Deaneries. 8% of contributors have been from outside the UK. The North Western (6%), South West Peninsula (5%), Eastern (5%) and LNR (Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Rutland) (4%) Deaneries have been the other major sources of authors of Lung Alerts.

Fifty per cent have been written by Specialist Registrars or equivalent, 20% by doctors in various grades which previously fell under the category of ‘Senior House Officer’, 10% by ‘Research Fellows’, 7.5% by Consultant or equivalent doctors, 1.6% by Foundation 1 doctors and three of the Alerts have been written by students. The remainder were written by doctors of various other grades including Speciality doctors and Associate Specialists. We are hopeful that the experience of being able to publish in Thorax will have led to many of those who were not already committed to careers in Respiratory Medicine and Science being drawn to this speciality!

Over the years, 70 journals have provided the sources for the papers summarised in Lung Alerts. The largest number has been from the New England Journal of Medicine (99) with other major contributors being the Lancet (48) and JAMA (24). The BMJ, with 19 papers, has also provided us with much material of interest.

One hundred and sixty-four of the Lung Alerts were about treatments and management strategies of various lung diseases. Ninety-four concerned pathological mechanisms of disease, with an increasing number in the last 2 years about genetic factors relating to lung disease, reflecting the increasing interest and knowledge about genetics in the published literature. We are confident that this trend will continue and we will gain a greater understanding of the genetics of pulmonary disease in the coming years.

The diseases of greatest interest in the general medical journals seem to be asthma and allergy, with 19% of the Lung Alerts. This was followed closely by lung cancer (16%), infection (excluding tuberculosis (TB)) (15%) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (12%). TB garnered 7% of the alerts, with cystic fibrosis following at 4%.

Some of the Lung Alerts which we published are memorable to us for particular points of interest. For example, we learned that allergic sensitisation to peanuts may occur through inflamed skin rather than only the oral route.1 Other Alerts have reported early studies which have led to greater understanding of new procedures or treatments—for example, radio-frequency ablation2 3 and gefitinib4 in the treatment of lung cancer. We alerted our readers to a useful new method of assessing patients with COPD: the BODE index described in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2004.5 We have reported studies that reinforce good practice—for example, PET-CT to reduce futile thoracotomies6 and the use of large particle talc for safe pleurodesis.7 We have tried to incorporate some important scientific topics to balance the clinical content and described important pathological mechanisms of disease8 and emerging genetic mechanisms.9

It has been a privilege to edit Lung Alerts as this job has allowed us to keep up to date with the literature and put us in contact with many readers of Thorax everywhere. We hope others find Lung Alerts as interesting as we do. We would like to take the opportunity to thank Angshu's previous Lung Alert co-editors—Terence Seemungal and John Hurst.


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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; not externally peer reviewed.