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Does COPD Begin in Childhood?

dec2015 2To mark World COPD Day,an annual event organized by the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) to improve awareness and care of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Lystra Hayden, Instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, set on a task to discover the relationship between childhood pneumonia and COPD development in smokers.

A recent publication in Respiratory Research, examined the risk for COPD in adult smokers who had pneumonia in childhood. With 10,000 participants ages 45-80, the study concluded that “adult smokers, having had childhood pneumonia was associated with a higher risk of COPD, decreased lung function, and increased disease of the airways on chest CT scans.” Additionally, Hayden noted that “the greatest association with COPD was seen in subjects who had both pneumonia and asthma during childhood.”

It is the researchers hope that these findings will help medical providers to “decrease the risk of future COPD by trying to prevent childhood pneumonias, especially among asthmatics.” Based on the findings, Hayden also suggested that medical providers offer counsel to patients who had pneumonia in childhood of the increased risk for COPD if they start smoking.

In the future Hayden hopes to use these outcomes to identify genetic associations that could define subtypes of COPD.  Hayden is hopeful that through genetic testing, understanding a patient’s genetic risk will help physicians better understand who will develop lung diseases such as asthma and COPD, while discovering the “best ways to both prevent disease and treat each individual patient.”

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