Antibiotics for Acute and Chronic Respiratory Infection in Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

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Prevention and effective treatment of exacerbations are major objectives in the management of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Antibiotics are mainstay treatment for patients with severe COPD with an acute exacerbation that includes increased sputum purulence and worsening shortness of breath. Although such treatment is associated with clinical benefit, treatment failure and relapse rates may be high, particularly in cases of inadequate antibiotic therapy through incomplete resolution of the initial exacerbation and persistent bacterial infection. These aspects have led to recommendations for a stratified approach to antibiotic therapy based on patient characteristics associated with increased risk factors for failure. Patients at greatest risk for poor outcome (i.e., those with severe COPD) are likely to derive greatest benefit from early treatment with antibiotics. Long-term or intermittent antibiotic treatment has been shown to prevent COPD exacerbations and hospitalizations. These effects may be achieved by reducing bacterial load in the airways in stable state and/or bronchial inflammation. Although systemic antibiotics are likely to remain the core treatment for patients with moderate to severe exacerbated COPD, inhaled antibiotics may represent a more optimal approach for the treatment and prevention of COPD exacerbations in the future. Regardless of the route of administration, further studies are required to evaluate the potential long-term adverse events of antibiotics and the development of bacterial resistance.

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