February 24, 2011

COPD Patients Have Higher Risk of Shingles

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are at a greater risk for contracting shingles compared with the general population. The risk is greatest for COPD patients taking oral steroids, according to this study.

Shingles, or herpes zoster, is a reactivation of the chicken pox virus resulting in a painful rash with lesions. People with a compromised immune system are at greater risk of developing shingles although it has not been previously studied in patients with COPD.

There is increasing evidence that COPD is an autoimmune disease. "Given that various immune-mediated diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, have been reported to be associated with an increased risk of herpes zoster, it is reasonable to hypothesize that immune disregulation found in COPD may put patients at higher risk of developing herpes zoster," Dr. Hui-Wen Lin, Taipei Medical University, Taiwan, was quoted as saying.

This study, using data from the Taiwan Longitudinal Health Insurance Database, included 8,486 patients with COPD and 33,944 subjects from the comparison cohort. Of the total sample of 42,430 patients, 1,080 had incident of herpes zoster during the follow-up period. There were 321 cases of shingles identified in the COPD cohort, and 759 cases in the comparison cohort.

"Our cohort study demonstrated that patients with COPD are at an increased risk of developing herpes zoster compared with the general population, after controlling for other herpes zoster risk factors," Dr. Hui-Wen and co-authors were quoted as saying. "The risk of herpes zoster associated with COPD is greater for patients with inhaled or oral corticosteroids therapy than patients without."

The authors conclude it is possible that "increased disease severity further contributes to the increased risk of herpes zoster associated with COPD."

SOURCE: CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal), published online February 22, 2011