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Antimicrobial therapies for prevention of recurrent acute exacerbations of COPD (AECOPD): beyond the guidelines

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Christopher WardORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2022, The Author(s). Background: Unfortunately, many COPD patients continue to exacerbate despite good adherence to GOLD Class D recommended therapy. Acute exacerbations lead to an increase in symptoms, decline in lung function and increased mortality rate. The purpose of this review is to do a literature search for any prophylactic anti-microbial treatment trials in GOLD class D patients who ‘failed’ recommended therapy and discuss the role of COPD phenotypes, lung and gut microbiota and co-morbidities in developing a tailored approach to anti-microbial therapies for high frequency exacerbators. Main text: There is a paucity of large, well-conducted studies in the published literature to date. Factors such as single-centre, study design, lack of well-defined controls, insufficient patient numbers enrolled and short follow-up periods were significant limiting factors in numerous studies. One placebo-controlled study involving more than 1000 patients, who had 2 or more moderate exacerbations in the previous year, demonstrated a non-significant reduction in exacerbations of 19% with 5 day course of moxifloxacillin repeated at 8 week intervals. In Pseudomonas aeruginosa (Pa) colonised COPD patients, inhaled antimicrobial therapy using tobramycin, colistin and gentamicin resulted in significant reductions in exacerbation frequency. Viruses were found to frequently cause acute exacerbations in COPD (AECOPD), either as the primary infecting agent or as a co-factor. However, other, than the influenza vaccination, there were no trials of anti-viral therapies that resulted in a positive effect on reducing AECOPD. Identifying clinical phenotypes and co-existing conditions that impact on exacerbation frequency and severity is essential to provide individualised treatment with targeted therapies. The role of the lung and gut microbiome is increasingly recognised and identification of pathogenic bacteria will likely play an important role in personalised antimicrobial therapies. Conclusion: Antimicrobial therapeutic options in patients who continue to exacerbate despite adherence to guidelines-directed therapy are limited. Phenotyping patients, identification of co-existing conditions and assessment of the microbiome is key to individualising antimicrobial therapy. Given the impact of viruses on AECOPD, anti-viral therapeutic agents and targeted anti-viral vaccinations should be the focus of future research studies.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Brennan M, McDonnell MJ, Harrison MJ, Duignan N, O'Regan A, Murphy DM, Ward C, Rutherford RM

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Respiratory Research

Year: 2022

Volume: 23

Online publication date: 14/03/2022

Acceptance date: 04/02/2022

ISSN (print): 1465-9921

ISSN (electronic): 1465-993X

Publisher: BioMed Central Ltd


DOI: 10.1186/s12931-022-01947-5