The influence of cigarette smoking on viral infections: translating bench science to impact COPD pathogenesis and acute exacerbations of COPD clinically

Chest. 2013 Jan;143(1):196-206. doi: 10.1378/chest.12-0930.


COPD is a complex syndrome that poses a serious health threat to >1.1 billion smokers worldwide. The stable disease is punctuated by episodes of acute exacerbation, which are predominantly the result of viral and bacterial infections. Despite their devastating health impact, mechanisms underlying disease exacerbations remain poorly understood. Mounting evidence suggests that cigarette smoke profoundly affects the immune system, compromising the host's ability to mount appropriate immune and inflammatory responses against microbial agents. This review highlights recent advances in our understanding of the impact of cigarette smoke on type 1 interferon and IL-1 signaling cascades. The immune defects caused by cigarette smoke on these two key pathways contribute to the seemingly contradictory nature of cigarette smoke as both a damaging and a proinflammatory factor as well as an immunosuppressive factor. Understanding the impact of cigarette smoke on the immune system may unravel novel targets for therapies that could affect acute exacerbations and COPD pathogenesis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disease Progression*
  • Humans
  • Interferon Type I / immunology
  • Interleukin-1 / immunology
  • Pneumonia, Viral / complications
  • Pneumonia, Viral / immunology*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / complications
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / immunology*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / virology
  • Signal Transduction
  • Smoking / immunology*
  • Tobacco Products


  • Interferon Type I
  • Interleukin-1