Childhood Pneumonia Carries Adult COPD Risk

September 24, 2015

Children with pneumonia have an increased risk of developing COPD and decreased lung-function, Boston researchers say.

Children with pneumonia have an increased risk of developing COPD and decreased lung-function, according to Lystra Hayden, MD, and colleagues. The study was completed in the Division of Respiratory Diseases at Boston Children’s Hospital and the results were published in Respiratory Research on September 21, 2015.

The researchers began with the hypothesis “that childhood pneumonia is a risk factor for reduced lung function and COPD in adult smokers.” They used the COPD Gene Study, which is a multicenter, observational study, to evaluate 10,192 current and former smokers from the US. The participants were between 45 and 80 years old, and those who had a history of lung disease other than COPD were excluded.

The participants completed a questionnaire, underwent a standard spirometry test, and had both inspiratory and expiratory chest CT scans. The questionnaire included questions about childhood pneumonia and asthma. The researchers categorized those participants who reported having pneumonia at an age younger than 16 as having childhood pneumonia. They chose the age of 16 because that was the age when most of the participants started smoking.

Some of the 10,192 original subjects were excluded because the researchers could not categorize their pneumonia histories based on their responses on the questionnaire, so 10,156 participants were considered. Of those, 8.4% (854) reported having had pediatric pneumonia. Among the participants with childhood pneumonia, 405 had COPD, while 282 had normal spirometry.

The statistical analysis showed “In adult smokers, a history of childhood pneumonia was associated with COPD and reduced lung function, with the greatest association in the subset of subjects with both pneumonia and asthma in childhood.” The participants with childhood pneumonia also faced a higher risk of chronic bronchitis, more frequent and severe COPD exacerbations, and a worse disease related quality of life.