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Debate in Print |

The Role of Bacteria in Exacerbations of COPD*: A Constructive View

Timothy F. Murphy, MD; Sanjay Sethi, MD; Michael S. Niederman, MD, FCCP
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*From the VA Western New York Healthcare System (Drs. Murphy and Sethi), Buffalo, NY; and Winthrop-University Hospital (Dr. Niederman), Mineola, NY.

Correspondence to: Michael S. Niederman, MD, FCCP, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Winthrop-University Hospital, 222 Station Plaza N, Suite 400, Mineola, NY 11501; e-mail: mniederman@winthrop.org



Chest. 2000;118(1):204-209. doi:10.1378/chest.118.1.204
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The role of infection in exacerbations of COPD remains controversial and incompletely understood. Although some investigators believe that bacteria are not important for patients with exacerbation, we disagree and believe that patients with at least two of the three cardinal symptoms of exacerbation should receive antibiotic therapy. With an open-minded view of the area, we review the data, showing that bacteriologic studies, pathologic investigations, and clinical trials all support roles for bacteria and antibiotic therapy in this disease. Still, many questions remain, and future studies will be needed to better define the mechanisms of bacterial invasion in the bronchitic patient and to develop effective vaccines to prevent exacerbations. In the meantime, we must rely on antibiotic therapy, and we will need prospective studies to corroborate preliminary findings showing that different patients may require different therapies; thus, patient subsetting may be vital in the selection of antibiotic therapy for exacerbations of COPD.


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