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Infectious Etiology of Acute Exacerbations of Chronic Bronchitis*

Sanjay Sethi, MD
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*From the Department of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, State University of New York at Buffalo and Department of Veterans Affairs Western New York Healthcare System, Buffalo, NY.

Correspondence to: Sanjay Sethi, MD, Veterans Affairs Western New York Healthcare System (151), 3495 Bailey Ave, Buffalo, NY 14215; e-mail: sethi.sanjay@buffalo.va.gov



Chest. 2000;117(5_suppl_2):380S-385S. doi:10.1378/chest.117.5_suppl_2.380S
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Infectious agents are a major cause of acute exacerbations of chronic bronchitis (AECB) and COPD. Several respiratory viruses are associated with 30% of exacerbations, with or without a superimposed bacterial infection. Atypical bacteria, mostly Chlamydia pneumoniae, have been implicated in < 10% of AECB. The role of bacterial pathogens when isolated from the respiratory tract during AECB has become better defined by application of several newer investigative techniques. Bacterial pathogens can be isolated in significant concentrations from distal airways in 50% of AECB. Specific immune responses to surface exposed antigens of the infecting pathogen have been shown to develop after an exacerbation. Emerging evidence from molecular epidemiology and measurement of airway inflammation further support the role of bacteria in AECB. When properly defined, 80% of AECB are likely to be infectious in origin.

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