In a new study, researchers found that current smokers and people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have a higher risk of severe complications and higher mortality with COVID-19 infection.
The research was conducted by a team at the University College London and elsewhere.
COPD is a common, persistent dysfunction of the lung associated with a limitation in airflow. An estimated 251 million people worldwide are affected by COPD.
Given the effects of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus on respiratory function, the team sought to understand the prevalence and the effects of COPD in COVID-19 patients.
They systematically searched databases of scientific literature to find existing publications on the epidemiological, clinical characteristics, and features of COVID-19 and the prevalence of COPD in COVID-19 patients.
The included 15 studies had a total of 2473 confirmed COVID-19 patients. 58 (2.3%) of those patients also had COPD while 221 (9%) were smokers.
The team found critically ill COVID-19 patients with COPD had a 63% risk of severe disease and a 60% risk of mortality while critically ill patients without COPD had only a 33.4% risk of severe disease and a 55% risk of mortality.
In addition, current smokers were 1.45 times more likely to have severe complications compared to former and never smokers.
The study was not able to examine whether there was an association between the frequency of COPD exacerbations, or the severity of COPD, with COVID-19 outcomes or complications.
The results are limited by the fact that few studies were available to review, as well as the diverse locations, settings, and designs of the included studies.
The team says despite the low prevalence of COPD and smoking in COVID-19 cases, COPD and current smokers are linked to greater COVID-19 severity and mortality.
The lead author of the study is Jaber Alqahtani.
The study is published in PLOS ONE.
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