Update on Asthma-COPD Overlap (ACO): A Narrative Review

Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis. 2021 Jun 17;16:1783-1799. doi: 10.2147/COPD.S312560. eCollection 2021.


Although chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma are well-characterized diseases, they can coexist in a given patient. The term asthma-COPD overlap (ACO) was introduced to describe patients that have clinical features of both diseases and may represent around 25% of COPD patients and around 20% of asthma patients. Despite the increasing interest in ACO, there are still substantial controversies regarding its definition and its position within clinical guidelines for patients with obstructive lung disease. In general, most definitions indicate that ACO patients must present with non-reversible airflow limitation, significant exposure to smoking or other noxious particles or gases, together with features of asthma. In patients with a primary diagnosis of COPD, the identification of ACO has therapeutic implication because the asthmatic component should be treated with inhaled corticosteroids and some studies suggest that the most severe patients may respond to biological agents indicated for severe asthma. This manuscript aims to summarize the current state-of-the-art of ACO. The definitions, prevalence, and clinical manifestations will be reviewed and some innovative aspects, such as genetics, epigenetics, and biomarkers will be addressed. Lastly, the management and prognosis will be outlined as well as the position of ACO in the COPD and asthma guidelines.

Keywords: ACO; COPD; asthma; biomarkers; epidemiology; genetics; prognosis; treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Asthma* / diagnosis
  • Asthma* / drug therapy
  • Asthma* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Lung
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive* / diagnosis
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive* / drug therapy
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive* / epidemiology
  • Smoking


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones