Primary immune deficiency diseases as unrecognized causes of chronic respiratory disease

Respir Med. 2017 Nov:132:181-188. doi: 10.1016/j.rmed.2017.10.016. Epub 2017 Oct 21.


Background: More than half of all primary immune deficiency diseases (PIDD) affect antibody production and are well known as causes of recurrent sinusitis and lung infections. Chronic and recurrent infections of the upper and/or lower airways can contribute to inflammatory and obstructive processes in the lower airways which are initially reversible and considered "asthma", but can eventually cause irreversible remodeling and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Conversely, several lines of evidence suggest that many patients who present with a diagnosis of asthma have an increased incidence of infection, suggesting underlying host-defense defects. Asthma and respiratory infections in the first decades of life are recognized as risk factors for development of COPD, but when patients present with COPD as adults, underlying primary immune deficiency disease may be unrecognized.

Main findings and conclusions: Detection of PIDD as a potentially treatable underlying contributor to recurrent/acute exacerbations and morbidity of COPD, and provision of immunoglobulin (Ig) G replacement therapy, when appropriate, may decrease the progression of COPD. Decreasing the severity and rate of exacerbations and admissions should improve the quality of life and longevity of an important subset of patients with COPD, while decreasing costs. Major steps toward achieving these goals include developing a high index of suspicion, more frequent use and appropriate interpretation of screening tests such as quantitative immunoglobulins and vaccine responses, and prompt institution of IgG replacement therapy when antibody deficiency has been diagnosed.

Keywords: Antibody deficiency; Asthma; Bronchiectasis; Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; Chronic rhinosinusitis; Infection.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies / immunology
  • Asthma / etiology
  • Asthma / immunology*
  • Bronchiectasis / etiology
  • Bronchiectasis / immunology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / immunology*
  • Immunoglobulins, Intravenous / therapeutic use
  • Immunologic Deficiency Syndromes / complications
  • Immunologic Deficiency Syndromes / diagnosis
  • Immunologic Deficiency Syndromes / drug therapy
  • Immunologic Deficiency Syndromes / immunology*
  • Immunologic Factors / therapeutic use
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / etiology
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / immunology*
  • Recurrence
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / etiology
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / immunology*
  • Rhinitis / etiology
  • Rhinitis / immunology*
  • Sinusitis / etiology
  • Sinusitis / immunology*
  • Vaccines / immunology


  • Antibodies
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Immunoglobulins, Intravenous
  • Immunologic Factors
  • Vaccines