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COPD. 2009 Feb;6(1):64-75. doi: 10.1080/15412550902724024.

Recognizing the importance of respiratory syncytial virus in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

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  • 1VA San Diego Healthcare System, University of California at San Diego, San Diego, CA, USA.


Acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are responsible for a large proportion of the health care dollar expenditure, morbidity, and mortality related to COPD. Respiratory infections are the most common cause of acute exacerbations, but recent evidence indicates that the importance of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection in COPD is under-appreciated. Improved detection of RSV using techniques based on the polymerase chain reaction accounts for much of the increased recognition of the importance of this virus in COPD patients. Furthermore, COPD patients may be more susceptible to RSV infection, possibly due to RSV-or immune response-induced pulmonary effects that are altered by age, environmental exposures, genetics, COPD itself, or a combination of these. However, although RSV infection occurs throughout life, viral and host factors that place COPD patients at increased risk are unclear. The complexities of RSV effects in COPD present opportunities for research with the goal of developing approaches to selectively modify damaging viral effects (e.g., altered airway function), while retaining beneficial immunity (e.g., clearance of virus) in COPD patients. This review explores the role RSV plays in acute exacerbations of COPD, the potential for RSV disease in chronic stable COPD, and newer concepts in RSV diagnosis, epidemiology, and host defense.

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