Patients with COPD Have Higher Risk of Herpes Zoster

February 23, 2011

Patients with COPD are at greater risk of herpes zoster, and the risk is greatest for patients taking oral steroids to treat COPD.

Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are at greater risk of herpes zoster compared with the general population, according to a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, and the risk is greatest for patients taking oral steroids to treat COPD.

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 dysregulation found in COPD may put patients at higher risk of developing herpes zoster,” the study authors wrote.

The study, using data from the Taiwan Longitudinal Health Insurance Database, was headed by Hui-Wen Lin, MD, of the Taipei Medical University in Taiwan, according to a press release.

It 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, 16.4 per 1,000 person years, and 759 cases in the comparison cohort, 8.8 per 1,000 person years.

“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,” the authors reported. “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.”