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Patients with COPD at increased risk of shingles

By Christian Duffin

Patients with COPD are at greater risk of shingles than the general population, and the risk is greatest for patients taking oral steroids to treat COPD, according to a population cohort study.

This study, using data from the Taiwan longitudinal health insurance database, included 8,486 patients with COPD and 33,944 subjects from a control cohort.

1,080 patients had incident of herpes zoster during the three-year follow-up period.

There were 321 cases of shingles identified in the COPD cohort, 16.4 per 1000 person years, and 759 cases in the comparison cohort, 8.8 per 1000 person years, a 68% higher relative risk.

Patients with COPD using inhaled corticosteroids had more than a two-fold risk of shingles, while the risk was three-fold for patients with COPD using oral steroids.

Lead researcher Dr. Hui-Wen Lin, a researcher in biostatistics at Taipei Medical University, Taiwan, concluded: ‘Given that various immune-mediated diseases have been reported to be associated with an increased risk of herpes zoster, it is reasonable to hypothesise that the immune dysregulation found in COPD may put patients at higher risk of developing herpes zoster.’

CMAJ 2011, online February 22