People with COPD have difficulty clearing their lungs of bacteria, dusts and other pollutants in the air that places them at a higher risk of having respiratory infections. But now a new thesis from Lund University shows that those with COPD are also at a higher risk for bacterial infections such as tuberculosis.
COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is the third leading cause of death in the United States, killing over 120,000 Americans each year or one death every four minutes and causes long-term disability. COPD has also been linked to an increased risk of health conditions such as diabetes and heart failure.
According to Dr. Malin Inghammar, Infection and Respiratory Medicine, Department of Clinical Sciences, at Lund University and author of thesis, "Despite this, until now most focus has been on respiratory infections; infections in other organs have not been studied to the same extent.”
Dr. Inghammar’s thesis had demonstrated that persons in Sweden who have a diagnosis of COPD have a three-fold greater risk of active tuberculosis in comparison to the general population. Active tuberculosis is a condition in which your body’s immune system cannot fight off TB bacteria results in infection in the lungs and other parts of the body. She also notes that besides a higher risk for active tuberculosis they are also at a higher risk for invasive pneumococcal disease, is an infection caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae (S. pneumoniae) bacterium that can cause meningitis and septicaemia.
In a second study Dr. Inghammar examined incidence rates of tuberculosis in a health screening program from 1974 to 1992. She found extensive bacteria such as coliform bacteria (a family of bacteria common in plants, soils and animals) and staphylococcusaureus (frequently found in the human respiratory tract and on the skin) were seen the blood of COPD patients by 2.5 times more than those without COPD.
In Swedan, tuberculosis is a rare disease therefore the link between COPD and TB is not of great importance. However, it could be important for countries like China (1,000,000 in 2010)and India (2,300,00 in 2010. The United States had 270,000. She noted that TB is common in countries were smoking is on the increase.
The next step in the study for Dr. Inghammar is to find the answer to the questions; “Does the cortisone treatment that is usually given to COPD patients make them vulnerable to infections? Or is the susceptibility to infection due to other factors, such as the weight loss, muscle weakness and anemia that are associated with the condition?
Dr. Ingammar writes “Our findings show that COPD confers susceptibility to a broad spectrum of severe infections. Increased awareness could benefit these patients, reducing morbidity and mortality.”
In the United States it is expected that tuberculosis will remain the third leading cause of death for the next twenty years.