Mucolytic agent

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]

Overview

A mucolytic agent is any agent which dissolves thick mucus usually used to help relieve respiratory difficulties. (hydrolyzing glycosaminoglycans: tending to break down/lower the viscosity of mucin-containing body secretions/components). The viscosity of mucous secretions in the lungs is dependent upon the concentrations of mucoprotein, the presence of disulfide bonds between these macromolecules and DNA.

Mucolytics: N-acetylcysteine: an aerosolized mucolytic agent often used as adjunctive therapy for pulmonary complications of cystic fibrosis (CF) in combination with vigorous chest physiotherapy. N-acetylcysteine acts to split the sulfide bonds in the macromolecules thereby decreasing viscosity, allowing for removal by normal chest physiology. The action of N-acetylcysteine is pH dependent. Mucolytic action is significant at ranges of pH 7-9.(1)

Natural Mucolytics:

Non-Mucolytics:

EXPECTORANTS should not be confused with a mucolytic. Expectorants increase mucous production.

Indications

  • cough
  • cystic fibrosis
  • COPD
  • asthma
  • bronchitis
  • bronchiectasis
  • emphysema

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