COPD patients at risk for dangerous bacterial infections

press release – Lund University, Sweden

That  COPD patients are at higher risk for respiratory infections is well known. But they also have a higher risk of other bacterial infections, such as tuberculosis and infections including pneumococci and staphylococci that can lead to serious medical conditions, it appears from a dissertation from Lund University.

The acronym COPD stands for “chronic obstructive pulmonary disease” and means that patients have difficulty breathing. But the disease affects not only the lungs but other organs. It is also linked to a higher risk of diseases like diabetes, cancer and heart failure.

Nevertheless, it has been most focused on respiratory infections, and infections of other organs have not been studied as much, says doctor Malin Inghammar.

In her thesis, she shows, among other things, that people in Sweden with a diagnosis of COPD had three times higher risk of active tuberculosis than the general population. They also ran a higher risk of severe pneumococcal disease, a type of infection that can include meningitis and septicemia.

In another study, Malin Inghammar looked at the presence of bacteria in the blood of COPD patients and control subjects from the general population. Both pneumococci, coliforms and so-called yellow staphylococci – the bacteria associated with the so-called nosocomial infections – were found to be 2.5 times higher in the blood of COPD patients.

Tuberculosis is a rare disease in Sweden, so the link between COPD and tuberculosis does not matter much here. It is however important to know in countries like India and China where TB is still a common disease where smoking is increasing rapidly. And the link between COPD and dangerous infectious bacteria, doctors may need to consider both here and abroad.

– The next step is to investigate on what the connection depends. Is it the cortisone treatment of COPD patients usually get that make them susceptible to infections? Or have infection susceptibility to do with other factors such as the weight loss, muscle weakness and anemia, which also belongs to the disease? wonder Malin Inghammar.

Her results may eventually lead to changes in the treatment of COPD. If  COPD patients are at an extraordinary high risk of hospital infections, it may be wise to consider this before considering hospitalization, and think through all the factors that could lead to an increased risk of infections.

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