Dr. Fernando Studart is looking at the relationship between Immunoglobulins and a COPD patient’s risk of pulmonary exacerbations. Exacerbations can cause shortness of breath, fatigue, increased coughing, and in acute cases, hospitalization.
Why are some COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) patients more likely to experience exacerbations than others?
We don’t know the exact answer to this question. However, most exacerbations are caused by respiratory tract infections most commonly caused by viruses. Individuals who have poor immune status and can’t fight off infections will have increased risk of exacerbations. This is why it is essential that COPD patients receive proper vaccination such as a yearly influenza vaccination and pneumococcal vaccination.
What is the relationship between acute respiratory exacerbations and the immune system?
COPD exacerbations are driven largely by respiratory infections and prevention of these infections is likely to reduce exacerbations. Immunoglobulins (Ig), also known as antibodies, are an essential component of the immune system. Individuals must have enough IgG in their bodies to fight off infections and prevent exacerbations.
Describe what will happen during your study.
We will measure the IgG levels (and its subclasses IgG1-4) in the blood of COPD patients who were enrolled in two previous studies: The Macrolide Azithromycin (MACRO) trial (n=548) and The Simvastatin in the Prevention of COPD Exacerbations (STATCOPE) trial (n=749). These studies investigated different treatments for prevention of exacerbations of COPD (azithromycin and simvastatin, respectively), registering the rate and severity of exacerbations, the rate of hospitalizations, and mortality for all patients during their follow-up. Using advanced statistical analyses, we will investigate if lower levels of IgG could represent a risk factor for triggering a COPD exacerbation, including in patients receiving azithromycin treatment.
How does your study advance the knowledge in this area?
The specific association between IgG levels and risk of developing a COPD exacerbation is still poorly understood and new studies are urgently needed.
How will your research improve the lives of those suffering from COPD?
Once we know if lower levels of IgG represent a risk factor for developing a COPD exacerbation, we can use these tests to identify which COPD patients would be at higher risk for developing exacerbations. Moreover, this research project could help to support future development of new treatment options such as chronic low dose azithromycin therapy or IgG supplementation for COPD patients with lower levels of IgG (and its subclasses) and a history of recurrent acute exacerbations.
The BC Lung Association grants a million dollars annually to physicians and scientists doing research in British Columbia and is a funder of Dr. Studart's research work.