The relevance of respiratory viral infections in the exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease—a systematic review

J Clin Virol. 2014 Oct;61(2):181-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jcv.2014.06.025. Epub 2014 Jul 4.


Background: Despite the increasing knowledge on the role of viruses in exacerbations of COPD (AECOPD), it is less clear which viruses are involved and to what extent they contribute to exacerbations. This review aims to systematically combine and evaluate the available literature of the prevalence of respiratory viruses in patients with AECOPD, detected by PCR.

Methods: An electronic search strategy was performed on PubMed and Embase and reference lists were screened for eligible studies. Cross-sectional, prospective studies and case-control studies were included. The primary outcome measure was the prevalence of respiratory viruses (adenovirus, bocavirus, coronavirus, EBV, hMPV, influenza, parainfluenza, rhino-/enterovirus, RSV) in respiratory secretions of patients during an AECOPD. Secondary outcomes were the odds of the presence of the viruses in different respiratory secretions and the odds of the presence of viruses in upper and lower respiratory tract (URT/LRT) samples.

Results: Nineteen studies with 1728 patients were included. Rhino-/enteroviruses (16.39%), RSV (9.90%) and influenza (7.83%) were the most prevalent viruses detected with lower detection rates of coronaviruses (4.08%) and parainfluenza (3.35%). Adenovirus (2.07%), hMPV (2.78%) and bocaviruses (0.56%) appear to be rare causative agents of AECOPD. Definitive conclusions regarding the role of EBV cannot be made. Seven of the eight analyzed viruses had a higher prevalence in LRT samples. Coronaviruses were detected more frequently in the URT.

Conclusions: Respiratory viruses are frequently detected in both URT and LRT samples in AECOPD with rhino-/enteroviruses, RSV and influenza viruses the most prevalent viruses. Detection rates vary between the two sites for different viruses.

Keywords: Exacerbation; Polymerase chain reaction; Pulmonary disease, chronic obstructive; Systematic review; Viruses.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Bodily Secretions / virology
  • Humans
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Prevalence
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / pathology*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / virology*
  • Respiratory System / virology
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / complications*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / epidemiology
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / virology*
  • Virus Diseases / complications*
  • Virus Diseases / epidemiology
  • Virus Diseases / virology*
  • Viruses / classification
  • Viruses / genetics
  • Viruses / isolation & purification*