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URMC / Clinical & Translational Science Institute / Stories / October 2022 / UR CTSI-Supported Study: Coffee Roasting Chemical and Mild Flu May Damage Lungs

UR CTSI-Supported Study: Coffee Roasting Chemical and Mild Flu May Damage Lungs

We’ve known for two decades that chronic exposure to high levels of a flavoring chemical called diacetyl, which is found in many foods and beverages, can cause lung damage. Now, a study supported by a UR CTSI KL2 Career Development Award suggests that even short-term exposures to this flavoring chemical can damage lungs of mice when paired with a second insult, like the flu.

 “We found that a single exposure to diacetyl for short periods of time did not result in much lung damage,” said lead study author Matthew D. McGraw, M.D., assistant professor of Pediatric Pulmonology at URMC. “But when mice are exposed to another common environmental exposure, like flu, the double hit can cause airway disease similar to what we see with high-dose, long-term exposures to diacetyl.”

The study, which was published in the American Journal of Physiology – Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology, suggests that seemingly harmless environmental exposures can be dangerous when combined.

While further research is needed to understand the impacts of low levels of diacetyl on humans, this study could have implications for people who are exposed to diacetyl at work, like coffee roasters. Currently, McGraw’s team is conducting a study in mice to see how long after a flu infection it is safe to be exposed to diacetyl, which could help inform when coffee roasters can safely return to work after having the flu.

In the near future, the team also plans to collaborate with coffee roasters in our region to spread awareness of the risks of diacetyl exposure, assess existing exposure mitigation procedures, and survey workers for lung disease symptoms.

Read the full story in the URMC Newsroom.


The project described in this publication was supported by the University of Rochester CTSA award number KL2 TR001999 from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Michael Hazard | 10/10/2022

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