Background: Persistent airflow limitation may develop in patients with asthma, particularly in adults with nonatopic (intrinsic) disease. Although the underlying mechanisms are still unknown, respiratory infections might be involved.
Objective: We investigated the annual loss of lung function in relation to seropositivity to Chlamydia pneumoniae in different subgroups of patients with severe asthma according to age at onset of asthma and atopic status.
Methods: One hundred one nonsmoking outpatients with a pulmonologist's diagnosis of severe asthma (32 men and 69 women; mean age, 46.0 years; range, 18-75 years) were included in a cross-sectional study. C pneumoniae-specific serum IgG and IgA were measured by means of ELISA. The estimated decline in lung function was calculated from the relationship between postbronchodilator FEV(1)/vital capacity (percent predicted) and the duration of asthma and expressed as the slope of the regression line.
Results: Patients with adult-onset nonatopic asthma and positive IgG antibodies to C pneumoniae had a significantly steeper slope of the regression line compared with the other subgroups of asthmatic patients (P =.001), being indicative of a 4-fold greater estimated decline in postbronchodilator FEV(1)/vital capacity (2.3% vs 0.5% predicted per year of asthma duration).
Conclusion: These results suggest that C pneumoniae infection might promote the development of persistent airflow limitation in patients with nonatopic adult-onset asthma. It remains to be established whether viable pathogens that are accessible for therapeutic intervention are still present in the lower airways.