Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may be associated with higher rates of mortality in patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), according to research presented at the CHEST Annual Meeting, held virtually, October 18 to 21. However, COPD is also associated with a lower prevalence of COVID-19-related hospitalizations.

Investigators evaluated results from 22 studies conducted across 8 countries that included more than 11,000 patients. They noted that prior diabetes and hypertension diagnoses were significantly more prevalent than COPD in patients hospitalized with COVID-19, which only accounted for 5% of the patients analyzed. Hypertension, by contrast, was noted in 42% of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 while 23% had a diabetes diagnosis. The prevalence for COVID-19 hospitalization among the general population is approximately 9% (in patients older than 40 years).

Because the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) virus has a prominent respiratory element, researchers expected patients with prior lung disease to have greater mortality. The lower prevalence of COVID-19 in patients with COPD “may reflect greater measures taken by COPD patients to avoid coronavirus exposure.”

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Smoking was present in 37% of the patients and, the researchers noted that this was “interestingly not associated with higher severity of infection.” Researchers are still searching for evidence to explain the relationship between COPD, smoking status, and COVID-19 prognosis.

Investigators wrote this research “will alert clinicians to the worse prognosis of COVID-19 infection in patients with history of COPD and it will raise a question for future studies to look at the association between baseline COPD and COVID-19.”


Venkata VS, Kiernan G. COVID-19 and COPD: pooled analysis of observational studies. Presented at: the CHEST Virtual Annual Meeting; October 18-21, 2020. Abstract 2469.

This article originally appeared on Pulmonology Advisor