Exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are episodes of acute worsening of respiratory symptoms that require additional therapy. These events play a pivotal role in the natural course of the disease and are associated with a progressive decline in lung function, reduced health status, a low physical activity level, tremendous health care costs, and increased mortality. Although most exacerbations have an infectious origin, the underlying mechanisms are heterogeneous and specific predictors of their occurrence in individual patients are currently unknown. Accurate prediction and early diagnosis of exacerbations is essential to develop novel targets for prevention and personalized treatments to reduce the impact of these events. Several potential biomarkers have previously been studied, these however lack specificity, accuracy and do not add value to the available clinical predictors. At present, microbial composition and host-microbiome interactions in the lung are increasingly recognized for their role in affecting the susceptibility to exacerbations, and may steer towards a novel direction in the management of COPD exacerbations. This narrative review describes the current challenges and unmet needs in the management of acute exacerbations of COPD. Exacerbation triggers, biological clusters, current treatment strategies, and their limitations, previously studied biomarkers and prediction tools, the lung microbiome and its role in COPD exacerbations as well as future directions are discussed.
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease